The Ultimate Holiday Gift: Self-Care and Self-Compassion During the Holiday Season

It seems like every year the holiday season is thrust upon us, only to take over our everyday lives even before the current season has come to a close.  Halloween decorations are removed or replaced with wreaths and festive lights while some haven’t even thought about Thanksgiving.

We need to slow down as a society, be more present, and live in the moment. Sometimes the relentlessly approaching holiday season encroaches on these values.  

For many people, the holidays are a time of joy and a reminder of family love.  But, for the majority of people, it’s a chaotic time filled with clenched jaws and tightened chests as people count down the seconds until the holiday season is over.

Essentially, the holiday season can boil up these feelings and result in frustration and anger.  However, here I will share some tips on how not only to survive the holidays but to thrive.  These tips can help replace those clenched jaws and tightened chests with deep breaths and a listening ear.  

Self-compassion, not only for yourself but for the person annoying you, is vital for mental wellness.

Over the years, I have found that if I really stop and give that annoying person my full attention, it stops them in their tracks.  They are left baffled that I am not upset, spilling over with anger, or crumbling, but rather that I am listening.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t have to agree with them, and I may still remain hurt, but I can listen, engage and then say something to the effect of, “Wow, I really hear you, but…”  Either way, the idea is to not allow this person to set you off onto a downward spiral.

The next piece is the most important: Self-care.  Self-care doesn’t mean sitting down and zoning out in front of the TV, ignoring the guests. Rather, it’s centered around a few soothing techniques and tools.

Mindfulness is one.  It’s free and easy to do right when your chest starts tightening.  The trick is to stop the swirling thoughts, and focus on how you are feeling, what’s going on, and zero in on your breathing.

Check in with yourself. Have an internal conversation where you notice your feelings. Acknowledge the feelings, whatever they may be, and make an adjustment.  Taking deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, helps slow down and focus your breathing.    

Other examples of self-care tools are as simple as a taking a warm bath, listening to your favorite music, disconnecting from social media for a few hours, going for a walk, or meeting up with good friends.  Meditating is an incredible tool and there are many free phone applications, such as Headspace, that can be useful in times like these.  

Try to make a list prior to the holidays of five self-care tools you can use to remain your healthiest and calmest self in these times of stress.

With this, I wish you the happiest of holidays. Taking care of yourself is the best wellness wish of all.  

Danielle Kelmar, LCSW
Young Adult Mental Health Specialist