• Adam Rothwell

Self-help: Caring for yourself over Christmas

We are told that Christmas is a time for giving; gifts, food, time. It is, but it is also a time for receiving, something which we can often put on the back burner throughout our lives. There seems to be a misconception that thinking about yourself is selfish and even narcissistic, but the concept of self care is one that is crucial for our wellbeing and also for maintaining healthy and positive relationships.

Christmas is often a time for many when families reunite, with siblings, parents, grandparents and relatives gathering to share a special moment together. However, no family is perfect and Christmas can bring up old ways of families interacting. Adult children often discuss the feeling of going back in time and feeling babied or infantilised by parents. A house, which once felt big enough for a family, suddenly feels cramped with the addition of grandchildren, aunts and uncles. And of course, some families make the effort despite rifts and family complications. Christmas can be challenging and tiring. So how do we take care of ourselves over the holiday period?

Set boundaries

Firstly, set these with yourself. Is there something you want to prioritise doing this holiday, like going for a daily walk or not drinking? Commit to doing the things that will support you and provide you with happiness. Perhaps think back over previous years to think about things that caused you discomfort - did you do them for someone else? If not, perhaps your boundary will be that you will not engage with that again. If you did them for someone else, consider if this may come up again this year and you then have a decision as to whether to do them again for the benefit of others (after all we do things for those we care about), or if you could suggest a compromise.

Next, set them with those you will be spending time with. Try have the discussion from the start of your time together so there is no misunderstanding or delayed responses. So if you plan not to drink, let everyone know that at the start of the holiday and ask that they respect your decision. Be prepared to answer some questions, but stay true to your goal - looking after and caring for yourself.

Find balance

One thing that can be hard about Christmas is that, due to the limited time you have together, families can feel the need to spend as much time together as possible in order to make the most of the celebrations. One of the great things about Christmas is connection, but it can also feel overwhelming, especially if you usually live on your own or with less people. Therefore, it may be worth considering having an allotted time each day to have your own space and time to be alone. You may take a nap, go for a walk, listen to a podcast, have a bath - whatever you find relaxing or interesting. This time gives you space to do something you enjoy, have some quiet and relax - often people then feel recharged and able to be more present with those they are spending the time with.

Have gratitude

Christmas often brings up feels of nostalgia and the opportunity to reflect on the past year, and embrace these moments. Think about what you are grateful for - this may be family, friends, job security, pets... the list can go on and will be individual to you. Gratitude is proven to lift mood and improve mindset, especially when practiced daily. If you are grateful for those around you, tell them - connect in a positive way and show your gratitude through your words, a hug, a gift.

Forgive yourself

Okay, this is easier said than done, but perhaps this Christmas is the opportunity for you to let go of things you resent yourself for. We all have something we wish we had not done or said over the past year or in the past. Whilst it is good to learn and grow from these experiences, it is not helpful to hold on to them resentfully and to punish ourselves for them. Give yourself the gift of forgiveness this year, wipe the slate clean and figure out a way to move forward with your life. This is not necessarily an easy process and can take time, energy and hard work, you may even feel the need for professional support with this for instance counselling. But it is a gift that will bring you more happiness than any physical gift you or someone else could provide.

Hopefully the above tips are helpful for you this year - they can be applied at any point throughout the year, but seem appropriate for the busy time the holidays are. Stay safe and well.

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