I can hardly believe it's that time of year again and we're having conversations about self-care over the holidays. Everybody knows this is a stressful season under the best of circumstances, but it's really hard if you are going through extra struggles. For many of my clients who have recently started working toward greater balance, they are still struggling with under-eating or binge-eating, or maybe binge-drinking; there are so many ways to act out with food, alcohol, and under or over-exercise. This is the time of year when there are either too many holiday gatherings to attend, or perhaps you may be isolated and have no holiday gatherings to attend. These are stressful, emotionally challenging, and overwhelming for many.
So how can we practice self-care and find balance during the holidays? I can share a little of what works for me and some of the ways I teach my clients to practice self-care.
1. Self-awareness. I can't say enough about this. Simply stop and step away from your situation for a moment or three. Observe what is happening. Ask yourself what you could do to take care of yourself right now. Ask yourself "How would I like to be able to handle this situation?" and see what answers come to mind.
2. Self-compassion. This is the exact opposite of shame and self-loathing. You can practice self-compassion a million ways, but for instance, if you feel you've over-indulged with food, or alcohol, or spending, use your self-awareness (#1) and then follow up with some self-care and self-love. It's okay to screw up. We learn from our mistakes. Don't get trapped in the shame, but instead, process the situation with your therapist. There is real empowerment in just talking about what happened and letting it go.
3. Find some relief in structure. Stick to your consistent meal structure, make time for activity like a yoga class, cross-country skiing, a hike in the woods or mountains, or a brisk walk with your favorite four-legged friend. Nature and activity are healing.
Enjoy the progress you've made. Make a gratitude list, they really do work! And know that every holiday you work toward greater self-care results in new skills and over time holidays become easier to manage with greater levels of contentment.