The holiday season can often resemble the feeling of being stuck in a revolving door. You know, the ones that go in a circle extremely quickly and wait for no one? There is a shift that happens once October hits, sometimes even earlier. The decorations go up, the online sales move into full-swing, the traffic becomes horrible—and suddenly you’re spinning in circles. Even if you don’t celebrate anything in particular, the pull toward holiday stress is hard to avoid; you can almost feel it in the air.
With that in mind, it is especially important to make sure that self-care remains a priority. This includes tending to all mental, physical, and spiritual health needs that are often triggered when stress is on the rise.
By now we can recognize that the idea of self-care does not equal selfishness. It simply means to care for yourself in a way that makes you available to exist in this world in a healthy manner.
It allows you to give to others without losing your identity in the process. It can be easy to think that riding the revolving door is the only way to experience the holidays; to thrive on the stress of it all as you go ‘round and ‘round. Yet, I am not sold on this being the only way.
There may be some reading this who don’t feel the pull, or maybe have already learned how to manage and handle holiday stress. Whatever the case for us personally, it is important to be conscious of what countless others feel during this time—especially those who may struggle with physical/mental illness or past/present experiences that are difficult or traumatic. The reality for many people regarding the holidays is that it is a time of loss, impoverishment, and suffering. For those of us who enjoy this time, awareness of these hard situations isn’t meant to kill the joy. Rather, it is a good reminder to make sure these people have space to feel what they feel, too. When it seems like everyone is enjoying their traditions, giving gifts, spending quality time with family and friends, and experiencing the joy of the season—many are walking through deep, deep pain. Any little thing can be a reminder of a current difficulty or a flashback to a horrible experience or time, and everyone navigates this in their own way.
Within the realms of mental, physical, and spiritual health, self-care looks different for every single person.
While I personally believe each of these is crucial to dive deeper into, I also recognize that some people do not have a spiritual life at all, or are working through trauma from negative experiences within a spiritual community. In terms of physical health, some are not in the frame of mind to consider these needs as a priority. And when it comes to mental health, some have not explored that many of their struggles do actually lie within the mind and emotions. That being said, this article is meant to be a reminder to consider what taking care of yourself means for you, personally. It is a call to take some time aside and truly consider your needs, rather than simply going through the motions of it all, or doing only what others expect of you.
Self-care is an invitation to go a little deeper. For me, it means taking care of myself in all three of the aspects above. It means sticking to my health regimen because I value myself more than I value others’ opinions of what I eat and don’t eat. It means taking time to reflect on what God means to me, how that has shaped me, and to set aside time to meditate on what brings me peace. It means taking care of my mental and emotional needs, which includes a lot of time alone. It means going to counseling every week. It means saying no without guilt so that I can put my whole heart into the things I do say yes to. It includes grieving the loss I hold in my heart during the holidays from losing my dad so young, while also experiencing the joys of the family and friends that remain in my life. It means taking things very slow and not allowing the pressure around me to dictate each day. It means giving to others and being aware of the needs around me, but not at the expense of my own well-being.
What does self-care mean for YOU during this busy holiday season?
Maybe you thrive in the kitchen making tasty pies or meals for others, or you like brisk walks with your dog in the morning or an evening yoga class. Maybe you enjoy serving at the local soup kitchen or other things that help those in need, or you just need some time away with your family, or time alone, or time with God and your church community. Maybe you don’t celebrate anything at all and do your best to make it like any other day, or you know you’ll be grieving deeply the loss of someone you love or struggling to make ends meet. Maybe you feel loved and surrounded by family, or you honestly just feel alone and are devastated by recent or past trauma, and are struggling with so many different aspects of life. There are many different types of experiences that people are walking through during this time and it is important to be aware that not everyone experiences the holidays the same way.
Whatever the situation may be for you, I invite you to consider self-care in a way you haven’t before. I invite you to do what is best for your own well-being and not be afraid that it may seem selfish to someone else. Do what you love, while also taking time to see those who are struggling. Ask for help if you need it. I invite you to be yourself and not let any holiday stress keep you from thriving.