8 Ways to Care for Yourself Beyond the Holiday Season

Taking a walk, pausing to look over snowy landscape

With another holiday season peaking, and the uncertainty of the changing political climate affecting many, you might be the exception if you are not dealing with unusual levels of stress, anxiety, or even bouts of depression. In my practice and in conversation, it is clear the recent U.S. presidential election has triggered many people’s personal traumas and left some feeling increasingly vulnerable. As the holidays bring many families together, at least in terms of proximity, some people are returning to environments where their wounds first occurred.

If you’re one of them, it may be more important than ever to adopt and commit to self-care practices that help you feel balanced, supported, connected, and grounded. The following are eight ways in which you can make a major shift in how you feel inside as you relate to the changing world in which we live, and that may enable you to take actions that support what you care about.

  1. Identify your story: If you are feeling heightened anxiety or depression related to the election, it is possible the results and the subsequent uncertainty has evoked childhood emotional wounds. In order to find more emotional balance and connect with your strength, it is vital to identify the particular lens you are seeing your world through. Identifying your fears, and how they connect to both your history and current events, may offer you the opportunity to heal, grow, and feel more empowered. Therapy may be helpful in this pursuit.
  2. Practice being in the present moment: Quite often, people unconsciously use the fears that derive from childhood wounding to predict the future. The truth is we don’t know what will happen. The best way to be with that not knowing is to practice being in the moment. If you are with a family member or friend, really be with that person. If you are washing the dishes, focus all your attention there. This practice can help prepare you to respond effectively to whatever comes your way. Therapy and meditation are great forums in which to practice this.
  3. Connect to others: Connecting with people you know and trust is one of the best antidotes to anxiety and depression. Our brains are wired for us to socialize and talk and think with others. The natural defenses built into your nervous system may relax if you spend time talking, being close to, and having fun with others. For some people, this may mean being around people who are not technically family.
  4. Get exercise and sleep: Proper exercise and sleep are both essential to reducing anxiety and depression. Attend to the body’s basic needs in times of stress. This is a baseline self-care technique.
  5. Recognizing the beauty: Another important practice, at any time but perhaps especially now, is to keep one eye on the beauty that exists in our world. We are being bombarded with fear-inducing news that over-represents the dark side of humanity. If you focus on that external noise, your ability to cope with anxiety or depression may be strained. There is a world of beauty that exists that needs our attention and care. Every day, try to notice something—be it an act of kindness, a flower, or a sunset—that holds beauty for you.
  6. Identify your values: Ask yourself what is important to you. Caring for something gets you instantly in touch with your heart and perhaps out of the anxious or depressed mind, and sets you up to take action to fight for what you care about, should the need arise. Whether you care about climate change, social justice, personal interests, or just being kind to others, allow yourself to be passionate about something—anything. This may alleviate your pain.
  7. Find voices of mentorship: There are all kinds of voices out there saying all kinds of things. Protect your heart and mind by finding the voices that resonate for you in terms of how you want to think and live your life. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t listen to or consider opposing viewpoints, but find mentors or role models you can relate to as you go through emotionally challenging times.
  8. Express your creativity: Your creative force, regardless of how it is expressed, may bring you in touch with something greater than yourself, and could release you from an anxious or depressed state. Daily expression of creativity may be nourishing to the soul and can be one way to develop present-moment awareness.

As you move through the holiday season and beyond it, remember to go easy on yourself. With our traumatic histories along for the ride, the world can be difficult enough to navigate without piling on additional baggage you don’t deserve to carry. Connect to what is important to you, pursue it with all the vigor you can muster, and simply do the best you can in any given moment. That’s enough for anybody.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Ben Ringler, MFT, therapist in Berkeley, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 8 comments
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  • Leah

    Leah

    December 22nd, 2016 at 6:17 AM

    For too many years I let myself grow distant from the people in my life who love me the most. I am not all that sure how it happened but I can say that I ready to heal that divide that has risen between us over the years. There has been a lack of faith, a lack of trust and I am tired of no longer having them in my life. This is the year that I am ready and finally able to let the healing begin.

  • stef

    stef

    December 22nd, 2016 at 10:56 AM

    I love to decorate for Christmas so I have allowed that over the years to flourish into something new and different every single year.
    It is a great little creative outlet for me, trying to one up myself from the last year and do something that we can all admire but mostly just enjoy.
    There is nothing like adding a little bit of light and shine to another person’s day and to your own home as well.

  • Addison

    Addison

    December 23rd, 2016 at 8:22 AM

    All of these suggestions are not only appropriate for helping you get through the holiday season but also far beyond that time as well. I am not saying that the pain will ever lessen but things do get easier. And I think that the more things that you willingly do to help take your mind off of some of that pain then the better off your life can ultimately be. There is nothing that you could do to better honor the legacy of a loved one than to go on with your life, living it to the fullest just as they would probably hope for you to do. I don’t think that there would be anyone who has passed from our lives who would hope that we would stay mired in guilt and misery for the rest of ours.

  • isobel

    isobel

    December 23rd, 2016 at 12:57 PM

    It is always a good idea to sort of have a game plan for yourself, know what you enjoy or don’t enjoy and then go forward with those things in mind.
    You don’t have to settle for the things that you are told you should do, do the things that always feel like they are the right fit for you.

  • georgie

    georgie

    December 24th, 2016 at 6:13 AM

    I have used alcohol as a crutch for a very long time. I can’t tell you the many ways that this has ruined my life, and yet it is the only thing that seems to ease some of the pain that I am feeling. The holidays usually make the drinking even worse although I have said for years now that I am going to try to get through them without it. Somehow this is what I always seem to fall back on, like it or not.

  • Virgil

    Virgil

    December 26th, 2016 at 10:43 AM

    For many of us who are hurting the hardest thing can be to go back to that point of initial hurt, confront that, and then start from there with the healing of oneself and the understanding of one’s own story

  • libby w

    libby w

    December 30th, 2016 at 9:20 AM

    Sometimes when there is so much ugliness in the world it can be difficult to find something that is pretty. But I do believe that this, if you can focus on the good and beautiful and the kind things instead of only the ugly and hurtful things, you can find a lot more peace in your own life.

  • Jody

    Jody

    December 31st, 2016 at 8:09 AM

    We all have that one person in our lives who at some point has made a huge impact on us. This could be the time to reach out to this person, tell them how much they have meant to you over the years and allow this reconnection with them to get you through what could be a very difficult time for you.
    I think that if they meant something to you in the past then having them back in your life again could help you redevelop some of that positive energy that you feel you could be missing.

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