December 15, 2016

Holiday Self Care

Whether your holiday plans involve spending time alone or spending time with a large gathering of family, it's often a good idea to come up with your own Holiday Plan.

What do I mean by this?

A Holiday Plan is one way of making sure the holiday is special and pleasurable for you.

A Holiday Plan can be therapeutic for people who are alone over the holidays. People in transition (recently divorced, widowed, relocated) are especially vulnerable to feeling lonely, alienated, sad, and in some cases, ashamed of their solitary status. Ashamed when others ask them, for example, "Who did you spend your holiday with?" The fear that others will judge them in some negative way or feel pity for them can weigh heavy. Many feel worse about their solo status when confronted with an onlooker's pity, no matter how caring and well-intentioned the concern may be. A Holiday Plan can help fill the gap when asked, "What did you do over the holiday break?"

Sometimes people who are alone prefer the solitude to merry making or the energy required to put on the facade of feeling merry. Take, for example, someone who works two jobs and is looking forward to the precious down time. Or someone who is grieving and prefers the quiet recovery time. Or the recovering alcoholics who refrain from a holiday gathering because they are newly sober and don't trust themselves to be around a spiked punch bowl. There are many reasons for choosing to be alone but the choice isn't always understood, or approved of, by others.

So back to a Holiday Plan. Think about ways you can make your holiday a special time of relaxation or pleasure or holiday ritual.

Make a list. This is a great time to consult with your personalized Pleasant Events List, discussed in an earlier post.

What are some activities that would give you pleasure? Which would help you feel the most refreshed? A hot bubble bath? Reading the latest edition of your favorite mystery series? Video gaming? A phone call to a friend or loved one? Taking a long walk along a scenic trail? Slipping out to see a movie? Starting a new knitting, art or woodworking project? Putting a puzzle together? Baking cookies? Sometimes getting caught up on household chores can be fulfilling. Just so long as it brings you pleasure.

If you expect to be around a large group over the holidays and you anticipate feeling drained rather than rejuvenated, as many of us do, give yourself permission to modify your plans. Excuse yourself for a walk after the large meal. Pass on the egg nog for a healthy drink you have brought as an alternative. Leave early so you can fit in some relaxing alone time at home or in your hotel room. Bring along a fun board game or favorite magazine as an alternative to the usual football game watching. Unless, of course, watching the bowl game is on your Holiday Plan.

Whatever your plan includes, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to prepare. Research a pleasant outing or day trip. Shop for needed supplies. If your list includes cuddling under a blanket, with a cup of hot cocoa (mini-marshmallows on top) while watching several rented movies with a pleasantly scented candle nearby, you will want to make your trip to the video and grocery store in advance. Most stores close or keep earlier hours during the holidays. You don't want your Holiday Plan foiled because you are caught empty handed.

Happy holiday planning, everyone!

Sandy Andrews, PhD is a Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist 
teaching CBT in South Austin

Grief Resources in Austin and Beyond

When you need more than your loved ones can provide, there is help.            Resources for Grief and Support Groups     Compassionate Frie...