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Your 2020 Guide to Self-Care during the Holidays

(Free Downloadable 'Letter To a Loved One' Included In The Blog!)

Your 2020 Guide to Self-Care During the Holidays

(Free Downloadable 'Letter To a Loved One'
Included In This Blog!)

While the holidays may look a little different this year than in years past this doesn't mean that that holidays can't still be filled with joy, gratitude, and healing.

Here at Self-Care Is For Everyone, we've pulled together 10 ideas to help you to incorporate self-care (and joy) into your 2020 holiday season.

So without further ado...

10 ways to practice self-care during the holidays:

1. Embrace your me-time, with intention.

Before 2020, me-time during the holidays was like mermaids or telekinesis: cool in theory but most-probably a myth. But as many gatherings go virtual, me-time may suddenly become the norm this holiday season. Unfortunately, with all that has happened in 2020, so much me-time might start to feel draining or lonely instead of renewing.

In the next few weeks, pick one or two self-care activities that you can commit to daily, carving out a few minutes for a little self-care ritual (ideally at the same time each day). Perhaps your day is much more balanced if you sit in meditation for a few minutes. Or perhaps your preferred form of mindfulness may be to savor a steaming cup of coffee. Whatever your preference, make that me-time sacred.

And for an extra boost, take five minutes to think through three special activities that you reeeeeally enjoy doing solo (bonus points for activities that encourage self-compassion!) If there is anything you need for these activities, stock up. Plan one or two activities out with intention — an evening bath or an uninterrupted album listening session (also, ehhhhem, our free downloadable World Kindness Day activity book!!). The remaining activity can be a bonus; something to surprise yourself with when the time feels right.

There is a difference between me-time scrolling on the socials and the me-time of self-care: The Social Dilemma . This holiday season may bring up a lot of feels, but you can guard against the urge to bury your feelings in a scrolling binge and help to take care of your future-self by establishing a daily self-care ritual and planning a few solo self-care activities in advance.

2. Be real.

Give yourself and others permission to honor what this season means because of 2020, not in spite of it.

This year has brought an unprecedented amount of stress, uncertainty, and isolation (or lack of alone-time). Some of our loved ones lost jobs, others their peace of mind. And some of us lost the very loved ones who first helped us to believe in the magic of this season.

Please be gentle with yourself and others this holiday season. You don't have to pretend that 2020 hasn't happened. Instead, feel your feelings, making space to honor them in the context of the holidays. Perhaps, instead of offering gifts to your loved ones this season, offer your tenderness of heart, your patience, and your love. Click here to download our printable "Letter To A Loved One."

Grieve and celebrate and hope. And consider making space to do so, together.

And if you notice your inner commentator whispering about your neighbors decorations (or lack thereof), or comparing you today to past versions of your holiday self, take a deep breath, and let that go.

3. Check in with your body

In addition to the emotional intelligence of making space for your feelings, also be sure to check in with your body. Prioritize daily time for movement this holiday season — but NOT as some sort of pre-dinner work-out punishment! Make time for moving your body because moving feels good.

Do what makes your joy come alive. Dance in your bedroom. Play keep-away with your dog. Steal your neighbor's dog and run around with it (don't steal your neighbor's dog). Streeeeeeeeeeetch.

Your body is intelligent: it knows when you are at ease, stressed, lonely, or sad. It holds that information in your muscles. In order to allow our bodies to release what we no longer need to carry, we must learn to speak to our bodies in body-based language. Movement, touch, sensation, breath — these are all medicines. Allow them to soothe you.

4. Try Intuitive Eating

And in that vein, please know that you don’t have to feel guilty for what or how much you eat this holiday. That is not the pathway to a healthier relationship with your body; that is the conditioning of a toxic diet-culture. Which. Is. Everywhere.

Over the holidays, diet-culture hides in plain sight. Have you ever heard a friend (or yourself) voice the need to "earn your holiday meal", to "fast all day before the holiday meal", or to "work it off, tomorrow"?

Toxic diet-culture feeds negative self-talk, telling us that we are flawed as we are, and pressuring us to over-exercise or to try a diet (New Year, New Me!). But science shows that diets don't work. Diets lead to a cycle of feeling deprived, which can result in bingeing, which then gives rise to a powerful guilt that you couldn’t “control yourself”, and then cycles back to promising that you will do better. All of which denies you the chance for a real, intuitive relationship with food, health, and your body.

But there is a path back to trusting your body. Intuitive Eating is a philosophy which allows you to heal your relationship to food, reconnecting you to your body's needs and your own specific hunger signals.

Intuitive Eating, proposed by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, identifies 10 steps toward healing your relationship with food. It speaks up about weight stigma and prejudice, health at every size, and is backed by 125 studies. As part of the journey, Intuitive Eating encourages honoring your hunger and giving yourself unconditional permission to eat, noting that if fear arises that you’ll not be able to stop, this can be a reflection of your relationship to restriction over a long time, not necessarily your ability to "control yourself". It also encourages journaling about your relationship to food: Which foods give you energy/make you feel good and which foods make you sleepy or give you a belly ache. Which foods/textures taste good to you? Which foods connect you with your inner child? Where did your beliefs about food come from? Intuitive Eating encourages mindfulness, removing all distractions when eating and saying gratitude for food — including where the food comes from and all that it took for that food to arrive safely to your plate.

We highly suggest checking out the resources available at the Intuitive Eating Online Community board, and/or getting yourself a copy of Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-diet Approach.

5. Breathe.

Release.

Pause.

Repeat.

6. Make Time to Connect

Community-Care is a form of self-care. Especially this year.

In years past, it was important to encourage time alone to self-nourish so that our cups could be full enough to show up with love (and patience) for others. But this year our very real needs to connect — for the health of our minds and our hearts — have not always been met.

Unfortunately, in the middle of a surging pandemic, many of us will not be able to tend to our loneliness with the embrace of a loved one this holiday season. But while that may cause sadness, it doesn't have to take your joy (remember, joy and sadness can co-exist).

And while yet-another-Zoom-gathering may not feel like the most exciting prospect right now, don't discount the power of spending virtual time with those you love to lift the spirits and foster connection. There are so many ways to make a holiday Zoom gathering fun, we promise. Check out our Thanksgiving blog for ideas and practical tips for virtual get-togethers.

And of course, even if you do have a chance to gather in-pod and in-person, taking the time to ground yourself and become present can do wonders for strengthening relationships. Connection is about quality, not just quantity (or proximity).

7. Set healthy boundaries

Boundaries are essential for our mental well-being.

While there is an undeniable mental and physical benefit to gathering in-person, the nagging worry and the risk of harm to yourself and loved ones can have a powerful negative impact on wellness. And not only your own. Expressing a boundary by turning down an invitation to an in-person gathering can be an act of love.

But perhaps you are quarantining with family and in-person gatherings are back on the menu, so to speak. There may still be a need to express other mindful boundaries.

Some of the most triggering interactions we can have are with the people who have known us the longest. Grandma will ask when you will (ever) bring a partner home for the holidays. Your aunt may comment on your COVID weight-gain. Your brother may take a jab at your 'piggy bank'. Dad loves to retell your most embarrassing childhood stories. And you swear that cat is always staring at you, plotting your demise.

Such interactions can run the gamut from annoying to actively causing harm. It may be best to immediately remove yourself from harmful situations. But if you check in with yourself and feel centered, it is ok to share when something hurts you.

Know that others (especially friends and family who are not used to you setting boundaries) may find this uncomfortable, and make a joke to defuse the situation, but their reaction is a window into their inner discomfort, not commentary on your worthiness. If you can, show them compassion. Your boundaries are not necessarily meant to push them away, but rather to plant new possibilities for healthier relationship moving forward.

Navigating boundaries can feel tricky. The best we at Self-Care have learned so far is to aspire to do no harm — which includes to ourselves. Sometimes this means setting strong boundaries, and even letting certain people leave your life. Many in our community, for instance, have voiced that they do not feel that their gender identity or who they love is respected at home, in an aggressive or even violent way. Please know that your safety matters — always — and the traditions and expectations of the holidays do not get to supersede that.

8. When Possible, Get Comfortable with Discomfort

Boundaries help us to repel toxicity and express what is best for our well-being. But the intention of boundaries does not stop at keeping us safe; boundaries, at their best, serve to facilitate healthier connection. Just as we have to learn how to speak to ourselves in healthier ways, we can help guide others into healthier relationships with us.

As with all things, practicing a bit of mindfulness can go a long way. If boundaries become aggressive or rigid, they may start out 'protecting us' but will discourage the possibility of healthier connections (and they may even begin to harm us, over time). Check in with yourself often to see if your boundaries still serve to keep you safe, and whether something in you is asking for the possibility of a healthier relationship. Is this person trying to express love, just in a clumsy or hurtful way? Are they communicating from a wounded space that has nothing to do with you? Can you engage with a bit more curiosity, listening for the hurt and the love beneath their words, without causing harm to yourself or others? Do you want to?

Everything in life changes, including our boundaries (over-time, and when appropriate). Only you get to say if or when your boundaries transform. Various meditation techniques and therapies can help you to strengthen your muscle of "being ok with discomfort" and lessen the immediate need to respond. Practicing self-compassion can also help us to feel more centered and grounded in our own worthiness, less triggered by others, and more open to offering our curiosity and love in relating to them.

9. Practice self-compassion

But please, release the idea that once you 'get' mindfulness, you will never again feel uncomfortable. There is no 'perfect' way to be you (and life without discomfort is a myth). But as you incorporate more mindfulness into your day, you may find you are able to cultivate more moments of compassion — for others, and for yourself.

If practicing self-compassion feels a bit awkward, don't be discouraged. Almost all of us feel that way when we start to work with self-compassion practices. Compassion researcher Dr. Kristin Neff — an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas and author of “Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself,” — suggests looking to times that we have been compassionate with others, and then learning to direct that kindness internally, as well.

Dr. Neff defines self-compassion as: “the capacity to notice your own suffering, be moved by it and extend care and warmth to yourself as you would to a friend.” And the science suggests this can be a very helpful thing to do. As we practice self-compassion, our cortisol drops, blood pressure decreases, and feelings of anxiety can lessen.

Dr. Neff suggests practicing a "Self-Compassion Break" throughout our day, and offers many guided meditations and exercises to assist in the process. You can also check out her 10 Self-Compassion Practices for COVID-19.

10. Slow down and Ground

Ok, we know we've suggested 'mindfulness' a lot in this article, but, really, it works. Try it for yourself.

Set technology aside and immerse yourself in the present moment.

Notice the smells.

The sounds.

The feel of your body.

Practice truly listening (and not just planning out your response in your head).

Be curious. Be kind.

When things start to feel overwhelming, know that you can always ground yourself in the present moment. Perhaps practice the 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Anxiety, or take yourself on a Sense and Savor Walk (© Christopher Germer & Kristin Neff).

PS. You Are Not Alone

Please know that if you would like a little extra support this holiday season (or whenever) reaching out to a professional is a sign of strength, not something to be ashamed of. At Self-Care Is For Everyone, we love the easy-to-use directory offered by Psychology Today. There are also online-only platforms like Talkspace and Better Help that allow you to text directly with a therapist. And if cost is a concern, please know that there are free-to-use talk or texting crisis lines around the globe, many with trained volunteers ready to lend and ear and offer resources, especially over the holiday season.

We've also been putting a lot of work in behind the scenes to expand our Self-Care Is For Everyone resources page. Though it is and will continue to be a work in progress, it is our hope to get better and better at supporting this incredible community in the months and years to come. We hear you, and we appreciate you, so very much.