Self-Care During the Holidays

The holiday season can come with a lot of stress. Perfectionism and anxiety can take over, while trying to make the perfect meal, find the perfect gifts, and create the most perfect memories. Call it socialized pressure from long-term expectations that we have always just known are there. Also, television, movies, and even commercials can communicate that this is how it’s supposed to be… perfect.

All of this can lead to self-sacrificing behavior. We risk putting ourselves, second, third, and on further down the list. The problem is that this is also occurring at a period of time where you could experience some much needed rest and relaxation.

We live busy lives. Work, relationships, families all can bring us so much joy and pleasure. Yet, they can also lead to stress, and constrain our time. This means that balance is what you want to try to find. Not that holidays are the only time to find it, but they are one of the times we need to practice it the most.

Practicing Awareness of the Negative

To start taking care of yourself, you have to recognize the need to do it. We tend to idealize things like overwork, perfectionism, and stress. The truth is that we can tolerate a lot. But if you imagine this like a dripping faucet into a bucket, it will eventually start overflowing. This is where stress starts to turn into issues such as anxiety.

It’s important to realize stress and perfectionism for what they are. Stress is an activated response that is sending us signals to take care of ourselves. Perfectionism is our attempt to take control of our own vulnerability.

We come into relationships and work with insecurities. We can’t just erase them. Most of us spend our lives trying to find ways to balance these things. I’m not saying that you need to spend your holiday season unpacking all of these insecurities. Instead, if you practice noticing and respecting that they are there, you can practice boundaries.

Boundaries and Re-orienting to Pleasure

When you respect that you’re not perfect, you’re more likely to give that image up. Giving this up during a holiday may mean that you’re going to have to let people know what you’re not OK with. Remember, this isn’t just to be a pressure-filled holiday. You are going to practice it with balancing in some much needed rest and relaxation. You can’t do that if you commit to every expectation. Identify where you’re going to say, “no.” Stick with it. Some people may be disappointed, but in time, they’ll start to learn more about the boundaries that you’re establishing.

Steve Hoskinson, a leader in Somatic Experiencing and Organic Intelligence, talks about the need to orient to the positive. This is taking time to look at what is OK. When we do this, we can take time to enjoy how this makes us feel. This can help your mind and body head towards rest and relaxation.

To orient to the positive, ask yourself, “What is enjoyable right now?” If it comes to mind, you can then ask yourself how it makes you feel. If it doesn’t come quickly to mind, it may mean that you need to look for it. This also likely means that you aren’t spending enough time paying attention doing this in general.

The second strategy to orientating to the positive is by identifying what you enjoy the most and the least. Make a list of what is the most enjoyable to you, and what is the least enjoyable to you. You can do this surrounding your typical holiday traditions. The goal is easy to understand. Enhance the time and energy put into what is most enjoyable, and work to minimize what is the least enjoyable.

Obviously, the holidays are filled with compromise. However, by knowing and communicating your boundaries, these minimized activities can add up. They can give you that time to enjoy things on your enjoyable list.

If you struggle to make your list of “enjoyables,” again, you have probably not been spending enough time taking care of yourself. People often benefit from looking back into their pasts for this. In our busy adult lives, we often give up activities that we used to enjoy. This can be a time to revisit those things. It can also be a point of discovering new things as well.

Going Beyond the Holidays

As you can see, our “disorientation” of the positive happens throughout the whole year. In fact, it happens over the course of many years. The holidays are a time where we can reflect on things that need to change. To get the most benefit from this, it’s something that you’ll want to include throughout an entire year.

Also, orienting to pleasure takes time to practice. It includes self-awareness and mindfulness. If you haven’t practiced this much, you’ll need to take additional time to check in and identify feelings and personal experiences. Then you’ll want to spend time just appreciating them for what they are.This awareness can help you further appreciate the neutral to positive emotions and experiences in your life. This can help so that you don’t feel so overwhelmed during the holidays.


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