MY holiday recipes... for emotional self-care.

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2012-12-16 14:38:17 -0600
Started 2010-12-07 13:14:49 -0600


Sometimes I notice that certain themes jump out at me when I am reading through various discussions. Maybe it's coincidental, or maybe it's the holidays, but for whatever reason, self-care is definitely the theme of the week!

I find that, so often, when people are dealing with chronic conditions, they discuss the challenges of managing stress, and the emotions that go along with it, like anger, sadness, fear, frustration… and others. While stress can come from a lot of different directions, one of the major causes can be boiled down to simply not taking care of yourself. And those who aren't taking good care of themselves are generally taking care of others instead.

It seems to me that lack of self-care is especially prevalent during the holidays.

I'd like to first present you with an interesting analogy that I heard at a conference. It goes something like this:

When you are on a flight that is about to take off, the flight attendant directs you to place your own oxygen mask on before you attend to anyone else. Now, isn’t this advice that we can give to ourselves in other areas of life? The truth of the matter is, if we are physically, spiritually, emotionally depleted, we aren’t going to have a lot to offer anyone else.

Having said that, here are some ideas to keep in mind, for the holidays, and beyond:

Keep your schedule reasonable. Are there events that you can say no to? Or can you go and leave early? Running from one event, and responsibility, to the next can be exhausting. Let yourself say no to requests that may be too physically or emotionally taxing. Instead of forcing yourself to be the life of every party, give yourself permission to be the party of no.

Don’t force yourself to be super_______ (woman, man, adult child, spouse, etc. Could this be the year when someone else is in charge of the school or neighborhood holiday party? What if you enlisted some help from friends, family, children, instead of doing everything yourself. It may feel like your ego is at stake, but so is your well-being. You don't have to do all the work. Set limits.

Avoid getting too caught up in giving, giving, giving. Make sure that you schedule time for yourself, to do things you enjoy. Even if it is ten minutes here, twenty minutes there, to take a break that is only about you. Give yourself ample opportunity to recharge in the midst of the chaos.

Protect yourself. You are going to be tempted from all sides. Make sure that you are compliant with your meds, watch what you eat (and drink). Who needs the consequences of an out of control diet? In other words, the holiday vacation doesn’t extend to your health regimen.

Keep your emotional support team handy. Make sure that you have access to supportive people that you can reach out to as necessary. Let them know how you’re doing. Take terms “venting” if you need to release your frustrations. Ask them to help you to gain some perspective before you jump back into the festivities. (It’s your secret…)

Keep your expectations realistic. The holidays are a time of high expectations — we are surrounded by images of radiant smiles, joyful laughter, good cheer. But is this reality? Don't force yourself to be in a state of bliss. Let yourself appreciate the moments of enjoyment, appreciate the people in your life for who they are, remind yourself that they're all trying to make the holidays and enjoyable time but we're all who we are. The holidays don't magically change reality into something it isn't.

It’s holiday time. Buckle your seat belt and have your oxygen mask ready. Make sure your self-care strategy is in place. Now, enjoy!

This is just meant to be a starting place. Any suggestions for self-care that you want to share?

21 replies

Randy W.
Randy W. 2012-12-15 11:46:24 -0600 Report

One thing that I'd also recommend is to treat yourself to something small, wrap it and put it under the tree (if you have one) FROM you, TO you! Why leave yourself out of the festivities? If you really want to have fun with it, put "Love Santa" on it! I do this every year.
Also, if you're making Christmas foods, look for low-calorie alternatives. I bake with Splenda, and it works perfectly!

GabbyPA 2012-12-16 14:38:17 -0600 Report

That is a brilliant idea!
I bake a lot for the holidays and make sure to give about 95% of it away. That helps me a lot. But I really do like your gift under the tree idea.

realsis77 2010-12-10 12:00:53 -0600 Report

Great advice dr ! I really needed to hear that! Espically the part about holiday bliss! Kind of brought me back to reality! I try to make magic for everyone else at the holidays and get disapointed that no one makes magic for me! Ha ha its true we tend to live in a sort of fairy tale at christmas and over extend ourselfs and our pocket book! You have inspired me with this post! Thank you! :)

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-11 18:03:28 -0600 Report

You are welcome! It's so easy to turn the holidays into a whole lot of work, trying to make sure that everything comes out perfect, as if we had any control over that. It seems that moms are especially vulnerable to fallling into that trap, and end up depleted at the end. I hope you have some fun this year and that someone around you tries to make that happen.

GabbyPA 2010-12-09 18:29:58 -0600 Report

This is great advice. I like the reality check. I am always envisioning a wonderful perfect Christmas celebration and sometimes it's just not so. Getting real is sometimes hard to do, but if I make a deliberate effort to do it, things go so much better. So much less stress.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-10 09:31:10 -0600 Report

Hi Gabby! Absolutely. For me, it comes back to living life on life's terms. During the holiday season, that means remembering that a perfect holiday only exists in movies from the 50's. (But that doesn't mean I am taking watching "White Christmas" off my list of holiday must-do's.)

GabbyPA 2010-12-11 14:47:45 -0600 Report

Or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer! I love those old movies and they do bring a bit of hope to the season. We also removed some of the expectation and moved it into reality when last year we drew names in the family and only purchased a gift for that family member on a mutual budget amount. We still do the stocking stuffers, but that removed the burden and made our frugal holidays much more enjoyable. It worked so well last year we did it again this year and it has made it so much fun.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-11 18:00:21 -0600 Report

That's a great idea, maximum fun without the budget miseries in January. And keeping the gift within the budget also means thinking about what that person might really enjoy, rather than just throwing a credit card at something. Yes, Rudolph is also a favorite. I remember when it came out.

GabbyPA 2010-12-12 19:31:30 -0600 Report

It really helps too because we have two birthdays in December as well and we are just 4 days apart. It gets a little nutty around here in December, but we're all good. At least that is what I tell Santa. LOL

Jeanette Terry
Jeanette TerryPA 2010-12-09 16:54:49 -0600 Report

This is great advice. I am definitely guilty of neglecting myself and my diabetes care when life gets stressful. I'm going to try this during the holidays.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-10 09:27:02 -0600 Report

Thank you! We should all try to kick off 2011 energized instead of drained. But not easy with all of the demands of the holidays.

jayabee52 2010-12-07 22:50:02 -0600 Report

Awesome article!

While reading some other discussions your airliner example popped into my mind, but for some reason I didn't share it.

Thanks for sharing!

CaliKo 2010-12-07 14:45:37 -0600 Report

Hi Dr. Gary,
Thanks for all the good tips.
All my social events with the exception of Christmas with the in-laws ends on the 19th. On the 21st, I'm taking my last half day off work for the year and my friend, Cindy, and I are going to a nice French restaurant for lunch (I'll choose something petite), then on to a manicure and pedicure and leisurely shopping (no must-buys). It will be a relaxing and refreshing break just before Christmas. And maybe my nails will look as good as my sister-in-laws for once. :-)

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-12-08 22:16:37 -0600 Report

Fantastic! What a great idea -- a day of self-care! I suspect this will leave you totally rejuvinated, and ready to face the next holiday event. Hope you win the nail contest but, either way, you will be the most cool and calm. Peace on earth!