This post is in partnership with Hancock Regional Hospital as part of their empowering women and children site. All thoughts, experiences, and opinions are my own. Be sure to check out their site for additional resources and support.
As much as I love the holidays, or back to school season, if I'm completely honest, they also bring pangs of anxiety. They always seem to creep up on me just a little too quickly. One minute its New Years, the next second it's summer vacation, then back to school time, and then the end of the year holidays all over again. I cant help but think to myself, “didn't I just make New Years resolutions, like...a week ago?”
While I love the holidays and all the other milestones throughout the year – they always come with some added stress. It seems like family dynamics always get a little crazier, my perfectionistic tendencies rear their head just a little bit more, and there is never enough time to get all the things done. Which leaves me wondering:
How can practice self-care during the holidays or other chaotic times of the year?
Check In Mentally & Physically
Of course that means getting regular lab work and annual doctor visits. But this also means, doing a daily, or even hourly, scan of how your feeling physically, emotionally and mentally. Take particular note if your mood always drops after talking with a specific friend, or if you have anxiety around a specific task. On the flip side, don't forget to do a scan of the positive things as well. Like if you feel a little extra warm and fuzzy after watching movies with your family. The more awareness you can bring to the things that both deplete you and fill you with joy, the more you can do these next steps effectively.
Setting Boundaries With People
Since you've been doing regular mental and physical scans, what did you notice? Was it that you always felt a little more sour after a call with a certain family member? If so, now is the time to take action and set some boundaries.
As an introvert, being around large groups of people for long periods of time can feel like my worst nightmare. Two hours in, I'm planning my escape to watch TV alone and recharge my battery. Mix my often misunderstood introverted ways with tenuous family dynamics, it can be a recipe for disaster around the holidays or other family gatherings.
Personally, that lightbulb finally went off during the fourth or fifth holiday spent at my mother's house that ended with me hysterically crying and ultimately leaving early. I need to repeat this: it took FIVE times before I finally set the boundary and decided to stop attending. It's been three years since I've spent a holiday with my mother, even though she lives a half a mile down the road from me, and guess what? I enjoy the holidays a lot more.
This may look different for you depending on your situation, it may mean having a conversation, limiting the amount of time you spend with them, or re-arranging the seating chart to give you some buffer room between you and “button pusher.” I shared my extreme example of no longer going at all because it took me years to realize that was even an option. I want you to know that it's perfectly okay to start your own traditions that include protecting yourself from unhealthy mental and emotional situations.It's perfectly okay to start your own traditions that include protecting yourself from unhealthy mental and emotional situationsClick To Tweet
Scheduling “Me” Time
I know it sounds a little crazy – you are probably already pressed for time as it is – but by scheduling specific time for your own self-care, you can actually increase your productivity levels and mood. Seriously, it's like the oxygen mask on the airplane, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. When you are living your best life, that's when it'll overflow and you'll truly be the best version of yourself for those you care about. Instead of grinding yourself to a pulp during chaotic times, prioritize some self-care and notice if you're fuse isn't as short as it normally is.
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Letting go of the idea of perfectionism
With social media making it more and more prevalent to document every milestone throughout the year, it's so easy to fall into the comparison trap. Instead of trying to get just the right back to school or holiday photo, focus on building traditions and being present. If the idea of a “perfect” photo begins to consume you or cause you even a little anxiety, challenge yourself to do an “imperfect” photo complete with bed head, no make up, and food stains on the clothes! You're more likely to look back on that bleary eyed shot with more love and laughter than the perfectly staged photo that you were probably getting into a fight over five minutes before it was snapped.
Resist the urge to put yourself in a food coma during gatherings. You will probably just regret it later and the sugar crash will probably just lead to increased feelings of irritability and exhaustion. Who's got time for that?! Instead try to think of your body as a furnace that you are adding fuel to throughout the day. Focus on eating a well-balanced meal (get those veggies in first) and make sure to keep up with your regular exercise routine, even during chaotic times. Even 10 minutes of exercise can get endorphins going for some people! If nothing else, the very act of exercising for even just 10 minutes, will force your body to take deep full breaths, something most of us don't do enough throughout the day, and can alleviate some anxiety. And as always, make sure to get all those regular doctors visits in before the year is over!
Ask For Help
As a woman, I definitely have a tendency to feel the need to do it all, and I know I'm not alone. If we are all honest, I'm sure we've all told ourselves, “if I want something done right, then I just need to do it myself.” However, nothing is going to land either of us in burnout city faster than taking on that mentality. It's true, you may have to go back and fix things to your liking, but start delegating asap! Ask friends or family to help take some of the responsibilities off your plate so you have more time to focus on all of the other things and taking care of yourself.
Remember, women's health issues aren't talked about nearly enough. And while the stigma of mental health is starting to subside, we need to keep the conversation going and lean on others in times of need. Check out Hancock Regional's article on 5 women's health issues that aren't talk about enough, and know if you're struggling with any of these that you aren't alone.
Originally published on 11/17/17