By Rachel Painter, LPC

 The holiday season can mean something different to everyone. It can be a time to indulge and spend quality time with loved ones. It can also be a time when family conflicts resurface, or a marathon of social obligations leaves you feeling burnt out. Regardless of how you feel about the upcoming holidays, during this season, we can quickly become so wrapped up in our commitments that we abandon all self-care.

The holidays are not just a time of social gatherings and family traditions, but also a time of self-reflection. Self-care, as we know it, can often require much effort. The reason our self-care rituals go out the door so quickly during this busy season is that going to a yoga class, taking a luxurious bath, or sitting down to reflect with our journal becomes one more thing on the to-do list. So, during this time, what does self-care and self-reflection realistically look like?


Having A Plan 

With every social event or family gathering, it is essential to observe what reactions or feelings arise. Is your next holiday event associated with feelings of excitement, or do you notice negative thoughts arising? Slowing down looks like observing and acknowledging our thoughts, feelings, and needs as you navigate social engagements.

If you know a holiday event is going to bring up feelings of grief, resentment, etc., it can help to have a plan. While you cannot always control your circumstances, you can change how you respond to painful or difficult feelings that arise. Maybe this looks like taking someone along with you for support. Or perhaps a practical solution is knowing where there’s a safe space at a family gathering to take a time out. Understanding and identifying your own emotional needs and having a plan to meet those needs is self-care.


Learning to Set Limits

Multiple social and familial obligations can quickly lead to burn out. As you observe your feelings and reactions, notice signs of burn out, such as exhaustion or detachment. With each event you attend, are you fully present and enjoying what you committed to? An essential aspect of being able to enjoy the holidays is finding balance and getting enough rest. Allow yourself to set limits and boundaries around what you commit to. Your body needs time to repair and restore. Setting limits can protect that time so you feel rejuvenated enough to enjoy the next event.


Being Gentle with Yourself 

During this season, we can fall into the trap of judging ourselves for needing more rest or struggling with painful feelings. It’s ok if your holiday looks different from others. Don’t only observe your feelings but notice your self-talk. While the holidays are full of excitement, they can also be extremely complicated. One of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself is a nonjudgmental attitude, kindness, empathy, and grace.