The Gift of Self-Care this Holiday Season

Have you ever heard of the “holiday blues?” It’s no surprise that that holidays are not always the happiest time of the year!

For our loved ones living with mental illness, the holidays often prove to be an additional challenge. While some are able to successfully navigate through these months, for others the holidays mean an increase in feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety, and all things opposite of the commercialized images we see portrayed during the season.

As a therapist I am reminded by my clients of the influence that our senses have in activating vivid memories and emotions during the holiday season. Who can’t recall the smell of a pine tree, a pumpkin pie cooking, or warm apple cider? Who can’t then connect that scent to a memory? Knowing what we do about smell and memory, this makes sense! Research has shown that in order to identify a scent, we first recall when we have smelled that scent previously, and then connect this recalled information to the visual memory that occurred at the same time. Our sense of smell is quite powerful!

Approaching the holidays, my clients have often found it useful to remind themselves of the options available to them during the season when their stress levels increase and their ability to cope decreases. Below are three easy options:

Be Selfish

While this sounds completely contradictory to the holiday season, it is essential that you take the time to prioritize you during the holiday season! In doing things for others, our daily routine and self-care, often falls to the wayside. One of the first things we encourage in our clients is to create a daily schedule that includes a good night’s sleep, a bit of physical activity, and meaningful nutrition choices. If these basics are covered, we are more likely to be available to our loved ones during the holiday season.

Just Breathe

Breathing, as simple as it may sound, is a popular option for our clients here at BrightQuest! Deep breathing, or breathing slowly from our stomachs as opposed to our chests, is one of the most effective techniques for decreasing stress and increasing relaxation in our bodies. Breathing is an option available to you in any situation, be it driving to a family gathering or hosting a Shabbat dinner!

Time Out

Part of self-care is knowing your own limits. Saying yes when you should have said no will only leave you feeling overwhelmed! It is appropriate to give yourself permission to take a “time out.” A 15-minute time out may look like taking the dog for a walk, running a quick errand, sitting down alone and listening to music, or whatever you know to be effective in bringing you peace, slowing your heart rate, and relaxing your muscles.

Happy Holiday Season everyone!