‘Tis the season to be jolly, but for many, this season is anything but jolly. The holidays can be stressful or even make us feel extra emotional because of heightened expectations around the season. Here are 6 tips to help you care for yourself this holiday season.
Stay connected with yourself this holiday season. The holidays can be busy and frenzied, leaving one feeling exhausted and drained. Take time to check in with yourself. Pay attention to your body and notice when you might feel tired, anxious, and lonely, and take steps to take care of yourself. The holiday season can trigger social anxiety and stress over finances or family interactions. Paying attention to difficult feelings that come up and not judging yourself for having them will free you up to better identify what you might need to do to care for yourself.
Practice a healthy relationship to food. You might feel pressure during the holiday season to stuff yourself will all kinds of sweets and treats at parties or at the office with extra snacks lying around. Try paying attention to your body’s own hunger cues and eat when you’re hungry and only until you feel satisfied. Be mindful of asking yourself whether you are eating due to feeling hungry or as a reaction to stress.
Take care of yourself during difficult interactions with family. The holidays often involve interacting with family you don't see very often, and no one can bring up old wounds you thought had been dealt with years ago like a family member! Consider sharing with a trusted friend any apprehension you have with being around family, and think through what possible scenarios or situations might trigger you. Discuss with this friend how you want to respond should you be triggered and consider texting or talking on the phone at some point over the holidays to check in regarding how you are doing.
Make room for grief and sadness during the holidays. Consider setting intentional time to share stories of loved ones who are missed during the holidays. Give yourself permission to experience both joy and sadness in the same moment. Make space for friends and family to share about loved ones they might be missing as well. It is a myth that you will cause a friend or family member to feel sad by bringing up a loss. It is likely that they are already acutely aware of their grief from a loved one’s absence, and it shows them honor and care for you to acknowledge their loss.
Find a way to give back. Research shows that one of the most significant ways
to battle feelings of sadness and depression is to shift the focus onto someone else. Make and deliver cookies to your neighbors, adopt an angel through the Salvation Army Angel Tree, or pick out a friend or coworker and surprise them with a really thoughtful gift. As we focus on giving back, we help our children develop a greater vision of the joy that comes from giving and doing for others.
Accept that the holiday season can bring up some difficult feelings for many of us. As mentioned above, the holiday season can highlight some brokenness in our relationships as well as magnify any grief or loss we might have experienced. Perhaps you identify with Sarah McLachlan's song, River, in which she sings, "I wish I had a river I could skate away on. I wish I had a river so long I would teach my feet to fly." The song reveals that though Christmas is coming, all she really wants to do is skate away from her grief and troubles. Advent is a season during which we allow ourselves to both remember and long for, to both hope and mourn.
I would encourage all of us who experience some difficult feelings during the holiday season to bring our hurt and brokenness to Jesus. Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah saying, "He was despised and rejected--a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” Jesus longs for us to draw near to Him and confess our hurt and brokenness and allow His Holy Spirit to minister to our hearts.
At times, when the path before us is rocky, we might benefit from having a "travel companion" to provide support and encouragement along the way. The staff at A&M Christian Counseling Center are available to walk beside you as you experience all that this season of life brings you. If you think you might benefit from such support, please give us a call at (979)703-1808.
Grace upon grace to you this holiday season, and a very Merry Christmas!