Now that Halloween is over, we’re in the final stretch of the year before the holidays. If you’re noticing the holidays looming on the calendar, you’re not the only one. The holiday season can be a tricky time emotionally for many people. Some folks have issues with certain family members or dynamics, the end of the year can be hard, and to top it all off, it’s an expensive time of year.
There are plenty of lovely things about this season, but it can be a stressful time. It’s extra important to make time for self-kindness during times of stress. Being kind to yourself is the gift that keeps on giving. It helps in the middle of a stressful moment, and with practice, it can help you shift to a more accepting and compassionate mindset, especially toward yourself.
So, with the holidays just around the corner, here are some ways you can practice being kind to yourself this year:
Notice where you are struggling
What about the holidays is tough for you? Is it family, friends, work, unrealistic expectations, money, or something else? Think carefully about the specifics of what makes the holidays a struggle. When you can pinpoint the exact problem, it’s often easier to find a solution for it. Remember, don’t be too hard on yourself when you notice yourself struggling. Struggle is a part of life, and judging yourself for such a human experience will just lead to you feeling worse overall.
Treat yourself like you’d treat your best friend (or the child version of yourself)
If you’re having a hard time being kind to yourself, try to shift your frame of mind. When you notice unkind thoughts about yourself, pretend you’re talking to your best friend or even the child version of you. What would you say to your BFF? Too little you? You probably wouldn’t be as hard on them as you are on yourself, right? This can be a helpful way to get in the habit of being nice to yourself – it’s a fake it till you make it kind of approach. Remember, it only works with practice.
Do what works for you, not what people expect
The holidays are a time of year where we rely quite a bit of tradition. Your family or loved ones may have the same rituals that they take part in every holiday season, but that doesn’t mean that you need to make yourself uncomfortable to practice them. If something doesn’t work for you anymore, you don’t have to participate. It might be weird to broach the subject of doing things differently with your family. To help prevent any defensiveness, explain your choices to them using “I” statements, so they don’t feel judged or attacked. Just because things aren’t the same as they always are doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holiday season with your family. You can always start new traditions together or even on your own.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
Another reason the holidays can be nerve-wracking is that the end of the year is a natural time of reflection. It’s easy to get caught up thinking about how different (or not different) your life is from the previous year. The new year is right around the corner, and the urge to set all sorts of lofty goals is high, but you don’t have to put too much pressure on yourself. The end of the year doesn’t need to be the beginning of a whole new life shift for you. You don’t have to spend the first days of the new year trying to be someone you’re not.
If you need more support on being kind to yourself, especially during the holidays, we are here to help.
We are happy to meet you in our office, and we offer telehealth therapy, which can come in handy while traveling for the holidays.
Erica Kittleson, MSW, LISW-S
(she, her, hers)
Erica is a clinical social worker with a Master in Social Work from The Ohio State University. She practices social work from a person-centered, strength-based perspective. She works with you to develop goals consistent with what you want to work on in therapy. She sees the therapeutic relationship as collaborative and is committed to providing a non-judgmental space to explore your individual concerns.
Erica has experience in the trauma field, crisis stabilization, and outpatient community mental health. Her clinical interests include anxiety, recovery from sexual violence, adjustments to life changes, post-partum depression, self-esteem/identity concerns, developing personal values, and relationships.
Below are Erica’s staff recommendations:
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find- and Keep- Love by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
Learning more about what attachment styles are and how your specific attachment style manifests can be a great way to improve your relationships (and your life).
This book goes into the science behind attachment theory and breaks it down so you can understand the concepts and apply them to your own relationships.
What does vulnerability mean to you? Brené Brown, who has spent her career researching things like shame, vulnerability, courage, and empathy, writes in this book that vulnerability is the source of many traits, courage included. Instead of being afraid to be vulnerable, Brown argues that being vulnerable is the key to unlocking much of the human experience. If you’re ready to step into courage, read this.
Make Room for Fiction, too.
Erica also recommends finding lighter fiction books as a tool for self-care for some clients. Finding a story you can’t get enough of is a great way to take your mind off of heavier things. Check out your local library or get recommendations from your friends and family.
“What is the best way to ease someone’s pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.”