December is National Stress-Free Holidays month. (Well, we can at least hope!)
This year with COVID-19, political turmoil, and civil unrest in our nation, it just seems a bit more stressful than usual, right?
Many families are struggling with finances, un-employment, illnesses, virtual learning, etc., in addition to their everyday stressors. Adding in the holidays to that mix, means that now more than ever, taking care of ourselves and our loved ones’ mental and physical health is an even greater priority.
If you are just like every other average person living in the United States this year, you may have noticed that putting yourself first, has been difficult, to say the least.
So, let us talk about ways in which we can begin to prioritize this, in addition to dealing with the holiday stressors.
What is causing your stress?
You may think:
“my kids’ virtual learning, working from home, tedious household tasks, my health, thoughts about COVID-19, the election and/or the civil issues in our country, holiday shopping/travel, shorter days, being alone, family gatherings, obligation or guilt, finances...”
Each of these issues can weigh heavily on our well-being, even more reason to practice regular self-care this month.
So, what can we do?
Let us first talk self-care.
If you have not prioritized yourself yet, take at least fifteen minutes per day and schedule yourself in. Seriously, make an appointment with yourself, and keep it.
Not only does making an appointment with yourself help you to keep this as a priority, but it also helps our mind recognize that we have just shown up for ourselves each time we follow through.
This is particularly important if you are someone who was invalidated emotionally, or physically neglected as a child.
Here are some ideas on how to use your fifteen minutes:
Sit down and actually enjoy that cup of tea,
Take a short walk outside,
Put on some music and strike up a dance party,
Nourish your body: stay hydrated, and
Try out a guided meditation.
There is a plethora of activities we can do in fifteen minutes and taking a break to sit with self and enjoy silence is also one of them!
Now that we have set some time for you, set some time for your family/friends as well.
Prioritize your social wellness, which is a form of self-care, by carving out one hour per week in your schedule. This is especially important if you are feeling lonely this holiday season.
Increasing our ability to spend time in healthy connection, can help to support decreasing stress, anxiety, depression, and addiction symptoms.
Perhaps setting a date with a friend virtually or safely socially distanced to enjoy dinner may help. You may even want to use that hour for a family/friends movie or game night.
If your resources are limited in this area, you can find a connection in other ways: join a social media based support group, AA/NA or Al-anon/Nar-anon, volunteer in your community, or even join a therapeutic group to meet others with similar experiences.
Erica Wilcox of Wilcox Wellness, LLC., is launching her Womxn’s Trauma group in January 2021, Fridays at 12-1pm.
When you engage in prioritizing your self-care and social wellness, it can be much easier to navigate large community and home life stressors.
After engaging in this, let us look at managing the holiday stress now.
For many people, holiday stress can cause anxiety and depression symptoms.
As human beings, we may deal with feelings of helplessness or frustration, high expectations, family functioning issues, and more. These stressors can result in physical and emotional symptoms of heart palpitations, high blood pressure, insomnia, ulcers, irritability, social withdrawal, substance use, etc.
Previously existing conditions can become exacerbated.
Here are a few tips to reduce the likelihood of these issues surfacing:
Ask for help: Often this is a difficult, but necessary, task for folks who have been independent throughout much of their lives. If you need to hear this, I will say it: it is okay to ask for help and it is okay to accept help.
Plan: When it comes to holiday travel and gatherings, we must plan to avoid stress, especially in 2020. This might mean deciding not to travel this year and sharing that news, or that you will be having a small immediate family gathering instead. This may also mean that you are looking for connection and need to set up time for a virtual gathering with someone in your support system. If you are traveling, making sure you are arriving early, and checking with your airline and states traveled to re: current travel restrictions.
Avoid alcohol and/or other substance use: Using either will only increase the emotional and physical toll on your mind/body. Delayed gratification is a much better feeling than instant gratification.
Set a budget: Identify an amount that you can afford to spend on gift giving this year, and stick to it. This may mean hand-making loving gifts this year (bonus: you can learn a new hobby this way!). Perhaps engage in a family “secret Santa,” and purchase one gift instead of many. Notify friends/family if you are not wanting to engage in gift giving this year, especially if you are on a strict budget. It is okay to say no, and not participate in this.
Keep it simple: Holiday overwhelm is a real thing. Instead of tackling those ten tasks on your to-do list today, start with one. If you finish, great; choose another if you would like. If you do not, perhaps this is your brain’s way of telling you that a self-care day is in order, first.
Set boundaries: It is okay to say No. You do not have to engage in holiday activities that you normally would or explain to others your reasons why, either. You owe it to yourself to identify your needs and follow through on those.
Acknowledge your feelings: Check in with yourself often, it is healthy to do so. Notice: what emotion am I feeling? Notice: where am I feeling this in my body? Notice: what are my options on how to manage this feeling?
Finally, identify the significance of the holiday to you: Would you prefer to honor that meaning, honor gift giving, honor traditions? Choose one this year instead of all.
My wishes for you this holiday season are peace, acceptance of situations we cannot control, and grace: not always in forgiving others for them, but for you.
Be present for you this season, practice self-care by showing up for yourself.
Engage in social wellness and holiday boundary setting, so that you can find connection during these everchanging times and find enjoyment in difficulties we are facing in our individual lives and as a country.
You can also visit Wilcoxwellness.com or contact us today to reach your therapeutic goals at 860.266.6098.