Exploring Self-Care during the Holidays
By: DR. MICHAEL EVANS-ZEPEDA PSY.D.
The holiday season can be a time of joy, connection, and rejuvenation. It can also be a time of exhaustion, stress, and conflict. Holidays underneath the duress of an ongoing pandemic are certain to be a heightened mix of both. For us to maximize the positive aspects of the holiday season, we must take care of ourselves. As the saying goes, put the oxygen mask on our own face before helping someone else (Topor, 2019).
What is self-care and how do we define it? Generally, self-care is viewed as any activity that helps promote our well being physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and professionally (Willis, N.G. & Molina, V., 2019). Often self-care is most effective when we are able to set specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time limited (SMART) goals (Grise-Owens et al., 2018). Self-care can also be viewed as an opportunity for us to reconnect with our own vulnerability and lived experience versus an activity or doing (Little, 2016). Ideally, I think that self-care is a combination of both planned activities and unstructured time that allows us to simply be.
Now that we have somewhat of a broad working definition of what self-care is, how do we do we engage in it? The following are some thoughts on how to implement a higher level of self-care during this holiday season amidst the pandemic.
· Take care of yourself physically (Topor, 2019). Exercise, rest, and proper nutrition are some of the easiest ways to improve our well-being. At the same time, give yourself leeway to enjoy a little holiday indulgence.
· Connect with others. From an evolutionary standpoint, one of the reasons we have survived as a species is due to our ability to be in relationship and cooperate with one another. We have a need for connection with safe others. During the holidays and continued pandemic, find creative ways to maintain and build your important relationships.
· Set boundaries with yourself and others (Zoffness, 2019). Boundaries are one of the ways we communicate to ourselves and others the value of our time, energy, and well-being. Boundaries help us to communicate our needs and give us practice in saying no (Zoffness, 2019). Boundary setting helps us take care of ourselves and others emotionally.
· Engage in stress reduction practices (Griffiths et al., 2019; Topor, 2019). Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and other stress reduction practices can help us slow down and be present with our daily lived experience. They build our capacity to tolerate, be with, and accept uncertainty along with regulating our emotions and stress levels.
· Plan unstructured time. I am aware of the irony in my last statement. Even during this pandemic, we are a culture that is addicted to busyness and productivity as a means to prove our value and to avoid our feelings. Try something countercultural and allow yourself the gift of doing nothing. See where it takes you.
We cannot take care of others unless we take care of ourselves first. Often, we can disregard our self-care amidst the busyness of the season and an internal sense of duty to others. I encourage each of us to slow down and take the time to hold ourselves in mind as well. I wish you and yours all the best during this holiday season. Till next time, be as gentle and kind with yourself as you can be.
Griffiths, A., Royse, D., Murphy, A., & Starks, S. (2019). Self-Care Practice in Social Work Education: A Systematic Review of Interventions. Journal of Social Work Education. Vol. 55, No. 1.
Grise-Owens, E., Miller, J., Escobar-Ratliff, L., & George, N. (2018). Teaching Note—Teaching Self-Care and Wellness as a Professional Practice Skill: A Curricular Case Example. Journal of Social Work Education, 2018, vol. 54, no. 1.
Little, J.N. (2016). Cultivating human beings, not human doings: Challenging discourses of self-care. [Joint Special Issue, Love in Professional Practice] Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care, 15(3) and International Journal of Social Pedagogy, 5(1).
Willis, N. G., & Molina, V. (2019). Self-care and the Social Worker: Taking our place in the code. Social Work, 64, (1).
Topor, D. R. (2019). Prioritizing the “me” in merry: Self-care strategies for this holiday season. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/self-care-strategies-holiday-season-2017121812926.
Zoffness, R. (2019). How to set boundaries with family: A guide to maintaining your sanity during the holidays.https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pain-explained/201912/how-set-boundaries-family.
Written by: Dr. Michael Evans-Zepeda, Psy.D., PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSISTANT PSB94024891 WORKING DIRECTLY UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF DR. MARLENE ELIZALDE-PESCHECK, LICENSED CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST 30285