Winter holidays come with a lot of fanfare―and plenty of high expectations. While holidays like Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the Winter Solstice can be joyous times for many, they can also bring up difficult emotions.
Here are some self-care ideas to keep in mind as we enter the holiday season:
Recognize and affirm your feelings
Are you stressed with holiday shopping? Are you overwhelmed with cooking and hosting duties? Are you feeling lonely or isolated? Are you happy and grateful for another year? Maybe you feel something different. Or you might even feel many things at the same time, both good and bad.
Take some time to examine how you feel. You can even write them down. Whatever emotions come up for you, they’re valid. You’re allowed to feel that way!
Whatever your situation looks like this holiday season, it’s important to be realistic with yourself and with others. Try to avoid setting high expectations for how you’ll feel or what things will happen for you during the holidays.
Rather than hoping you feel a certain way by a certain time, honor yourself by trying to accept how you feel in the moment. This can prevent putting pressure on yourself and others to be―or feel―a certain way.
Preserve your boundaries
You don’t have to do anything you’re not ready to do. Nothing is set in stone! So if you’re feeling on the verge of a breakdown with too many things on your plate, consider saying “no” more often. If you have particular family members who bring up deeply uncomfortable emotions for you, it’s okay to set a boundary with them and limit (or even eliminate) your time around them.
Remember: Your needs and well-being are just as important as anybody else’s!
Seeing festive scenes of beautiful, smiling people in holiday movies or on social media sites might feel nice at first. But the more of these images we see, the easier it is to compare our lives to fantasies we’re seeing on the screen. When you can, avoid comparing your life to the lives of movie characters, social media models, coworkers, friends and family.
Instead, try looking at your life with fresh eyes. Think of the things that bring you joy, the things you’re grateful for, and also the things that bring you pain or frustration. Set a goal for understanding your own life as deeply as possible. Then work toward that goal little by little.
Be kind to yourself
Try to show yourself the kindness you would offer others. Remind yourself that you’re allowed to make mistakes. You’re allowed to change over time. You’re allowed to feel sad or detached, even during a festive season. You’re allowed to hold joy even as others might be grieving.
If negative self-talk creeps into your head, try rewriting the script in your mind. Instead of saying, “I deserve to be alone this holiday season,” challenge that thought with something like, “I deserve to feel loved, during the holidays and all year long.” If you catch yourself thinking, “Wow, I’ve really failed at celebrating the holidays correctly this year,” try responding to yourself with, “You know, I’ve done the best I can. And that’s enough.”
Identify which negative thoughts tend to come up about yourself, and try out different responses. It’s a powerful way to be a good friend to yourself.
Helping others can be a hallmark of the holiday season. It’s also an incredible way to feel useful, connected and appreciated. This holiday season, consider what you can do for others in your community.
Perhaps you could donate some money to a charity. You could volunteer your time and service at a local shelter or food bank. You could offer to do some household chores or repairs for elderly family members. You could even spread some holiday cheer by caroling with your friends or family at an assisted living facility. Get creative! Whatever you do, it can make a huge difference to someone when they get your support or attention.
Try out some of these ideas and see which ones feel best for you. Practicing these over time could help bring you more peace and balance this holiday season.