7 ways to save your mind and body from holiday burnout
By Vicky Coppens
Program Manager, Counseling Clinic
How often are you asked, “are you taking care of yourself?” We call this self-care and it is especially important during the holidays. This is a time when our stress levels are high and there doesn’t seem to be enough time to get everything done. If you’re having a hard time making yourself and your mental wellness a priority this holiday season, here are some tips to help you slow down and take care of YOU!
1.) Listen to your body
We often experience negative physical symptoms when we are under stress. Things like headaches, muscle pain, fatigue and poor eating patterns are all signs that you might be pushing yourself too hard. Recognize what your body may be telling you and act on it. Keep a water bottle and healthy snacks readily available in your refrigerator. Take a short walk around the block. Set your alarm for a 15-minute power nap when you need it. Listen to your body and allow yourself to take breaks for the sake of your own health.
2.) Be mindful
The higher our stress levels, the more likely we are to fall into self-defeating behaviors and negative self-talk. Slow down enough to recognize the beauty in the present moment. Acknowledge your stress and tell yourself to ‘slow down’ or ask yourself ‘am I enjoying this?’ If the answer is no, then find something that brings you joy, if even for a minute. Remember to appreciate the sights, smells, and sounds of the season while you can.
3.) Set realistic goals
If the holidays aren’t perfect, that’s okay! Remember that keeping things simple can be elegant and that sometimes less is more. No one will remember what you served at the party, but they will remember how you presented yourself. Don’t set yourself up for failure and feelings of defeat. Have fun and don’t sweat the small stuff. Identify what you can accomplish and what you can put on hold. And remember – you don’t have to do it all alone! If you are hosting an event, ask your guests to bring a dish to pass. If you have kids, ask your partner or your parents to help with the holiday magic.
4.) Allow yourself to say ‘no’
Although we may have obligations to attend certain events during the holidays, it’s okay to say “no,” especially if your own needs will take a back seat if you say ‘yes’. There is an art to saying no and if you are honest with your loved ones, they should understand. You can always make plans with friends and family after the hustle and bustle of the season is over.
5.) Find Gratitude
Tell your friends and family that you are thankful for them. When you find yourself thinking negatively, acknowledge something positive in your life. Keep a gratitude journal or go out of your way to do something kind for someone else. Small acts of kindness can be the best gift to both others and to yourself.
6.) Find someone to talk to
Talk to trusted friend or family member and tell them what you need during this busy holiday season. Make sure that your needs are being met so that you can meet the needs of others. After all, you can’t fill from an empty cup! And if you’re having a hard time or feeling blue, tell someone you trust about what you are experiencing. If you have a therapist or think that you might benefit from meeting with one, schedule an appointment.
7.) Make a plan for after the holidays
The holiday season can come and go so quickly, and we are often too busy to fully enjoy it. Make some plans for after the holidays so you have something to look forward to. This could be as simple as scheduling a massage, planning coffee with a friend or even a weekend getaway. Decompressing after the holidays is essential and no one will do it for you. Make some time to care for yourself after the holidays are over. You will thank yourself later.
Vicky Coppens is a therapist and program manager of Family Services’ Counseling Clinic in Green Bay, WI. She has an extensive background working with families on family and relationship issues, parenting challenges, anger management, abuse, stress, and other major life changes. Vicky is trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Trauma-Informed Care.