Self-Care During the Holidays by Sarah Frank, LMFT, ATR

I’m thinking of an advertisement I have heard on Pandora, probably about 20 times at this point. It includes sound clips of the “interesting” family members you could be staying with over the holidays or you can click on the ad to find a great deal on a hotel nearby. For me this brings up the very important theme of “self care”, especially during the holiday season when seeing family is quite probable. For many of us this can bring up feelings ranging from mild discomfort to outright aversion. You may feel stuck in situations that cause anxiety and even trigger destructive behaviors that seem to crawl out of the woodwork at times like this.
“Self care” is a literal concept of practicing consideration and compassion for oneself and is ideally done on a regular basis but especially crucial during times of stress or extraneous output. The idea is that if we are taking care of ourselves we will be more resilient in the face of challenges and hardships and less likely to suffer lasting results that may include anxiety, depression, and turning to unhealthy coping skills. It is important and can be quite crucial to have a self-care plan in place as we mentally prepare ourselves to be in social situations with certain family members.
One self-care tool is non-defensive communication. This will require some conscious effort of acknowledging ahead of time that your defenses may be activated when talking with certain people and giving yourself permission to let it go for the sake of not becoming emotionally hijacked. By considering this possibility ahead of time you are, in essence, creating a mental container for these feelings and giving yourself permission to respond to them on your own time. By engaging in this practice you are less likely to react impulsively, saying or doing something that may later bring up guilt, shame, or lingering anger. You are practicing self-care by not letting your feelings take over during expectedly challenging situations.
The other tool I want to mention is making sure you know who you can talk to openly about the feelings that may arise around certain family members and scheduling in times to process these feelings. This may be a friend, a sponsor, a therapist, a therapy group or other support group you are connected with. This is another means of engaging in self-care by providing yourself with the outside support necessary to work through, problem-solve, and accept your feelings.
This season try to give yourself permission to practice self-care and you may find the holidays a little (or a lot) more enjoyable.

Elana Clark-Faler
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