The holiday season is here… are you ready?! Aside from meal planning, decorating, and shopping, are YOU prepared for the whirlwind, end-of-the-year, holiday chaos?
Whether you are hoping to stay on course with your health goals, or merely stay sane, these Holiday Self-Care Survival Tips will help you better prepare for the inevitable. Let me know which suggestions resonate most, and please share other strategies you can’t live without.
Know Your Why
You’ve been working hard on your health goals — to lose weight, eat more veggies, exercise regularly, etc. — so don’t let the holidays sabotage your efforts. Getting clear on WHY you are striving for that goal will go a long way in helping you stay the course.
List the reasons that made you take action in the first place and imagine how great you will feel once you accomplish your goal. I encourage you to go one step further and write down your Why. No, really… write it down! You only need a sentence or two to help you embed this information into your subconscious, plus, the paper can serve as a handy cheat sheet during those moments when you need a gentle reminder or nudge in the right direction.
Download the Self-Care Survival Worksheet and fill-in the blanks! So easy. No excuses.
Know Your Triggers
Isn’t it great that our loved ones provide SO many opportunities for personal growth?! Because we know each other so well, it’s easy to push the buttons of our loved ones and make comments about their past decisions/mistakes. The good news is, you likely know exactly which buttons your loved ones will push to trigger you too. By planning in advance for the inevitable, you can determine how best to avoid the pitfalls and how to respond (vs. react) once your defensiveness kicks in.
For example, one of my triggers is feeling less than and different. Growing up, I was considered the “creative one”, whereas the rest of my family were all about sports. At every family gathering nowadays, I can expect a few digs about not understanding the rules, or even that the “big game” is on that weekend. This scenario is so old and ingrained in our family that I would almost (almost) be disappointed if some comments weren’t made. This trigger is easy to prepare for because it is so expected and I no longer take these comments personally.
I recognize that this example is benign, and other triggers are much harder to deal with. That’s why it’s important to identify them in advance, in hopes of minimizing being blind-sided, and allowing yourself plenty of time to prepare your responses.
Set Clear Boundaries
Holding boundaries can be hard, especially with family. This is often true because patterns were set while we were children, before we had choice over our actions. Falling into old patterns is easy, because they feel familiar and comfortable… even if, as adults, we now recognize that these patterns are not always healthy or safe.
It’s key to remember that you are in control. You have the power and authority to set whatever boundaries you want for your life. This could mean something as simple as deciding when you arrive and leave a party… even if it goes against what is “expected” of you. Another boundary could mean choosing to eat some, but not all, of the traditional family dishes… or that you bring your own food to share, possibly starting a new tradition and uncovering new family favorites.
Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking that all boundaries are negative. Get clear on your non-negotiables and stick to them. Boundaries are reinforced by Knowing Your Why, and can be extremely helpful to minimize or avoid being triggered.
Fill-up in Advance
The term “fill-up” generally has us thinking about food, and yes, filling up on healthy food in advance of a big party or family gathering is a great strategy to avoid over-consuming. Beyond food, I invite you to consider other ways to fill yourself up… emotionally, spiritually, socially… in the days or weeks leading up to an event. What can you do in advance to optimize your whole self, so you are primed to face any temptations that come your way?
If overeating during the holidays is a familiar pattern, what can you do in advance to prepare your body and mind to feel full enough to avoid that extra serving of pie or additional glasses of wine? Are you eating because these family recipes are only offered once/twice a year and you don’t want to miss out? Great… go for it! In contrast, if you are consuming more than normal to numb emotional pain or as a way to avoid engaging with certain people, that’s when it’s time to re-evaluate the choices and phone a friend for support!
Knowing yourself, and fully accepting your nuances, will help you know how to “fill-up” in healthy ways beforehand, so you can experience more peace and success toward your health goals.
Remember Your Options
One more tip for self-care survival is to know your options and remind yourself that there are a variety of choices you can make. You don’t have to fall into old habits.
In the first four holiday survival tips, you clearly outlined your why and made a mental (or written!) list of all known triggers. You identified your non-negotiable boundaries and filled up your body, mind and soul with positive reinforcements. Sometimes however, you arrive at a party and all good-intentions are thrown out the window within minutes. C’est la vie! So much for planning. Now it’s time for resiliency and relying on previous training/self-care practices.
For those times when all else fails and you can’t think clearly, it’s good to have a “Go To” list ready. These are the techniques you rely on to pull you out of a funk. Having this toolkit ready is crucial to success… every day, not only during the holidays.
Here are a few options to get you thinking about your own “go to” favorites. Remember, just because it works for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you. Trust your instincts and what has worked well for you in the past.
- Meditating and/or deep breathing
- Chatting or texting with friends
- Going for a walk or run
- Listening to music or podcasts
- Watching a good movie (or even a quick cat video)
- Taking a bath
- Sleeping / napping
- Taking time to be alone
*Reminder: Steer clear of anything that could be used for avoiding and stuffing pain. Self-care is about compassion and re-filling, not running away and avoiding feelings.
I hope you found some useful tips/reminders for surviving and thriving during the holidays, as well as throughout the new year. I encourage frequent check-ins over the coming weeks to ensure you are managing stress, and filling yourself up in healthy and positive ways. All the small steps and “wins” add up to great success over time.
The holiday season can be magical. Look for ways to celebrate the joys and offer gratitude. May this season bring many blessings to you and your loved ones!