As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that while I love the holiday season, it isn’t always easy. From family gatherings to Christmas shopping and freezing temperatures, I find that I get next to no “me” time, and that drains me.
This month, we are focusing on surviving the holidays.
As foster parents and parents of complex kids, we often devote very little time to ourselves, and instead, like to give our time to others. This isn’t a bad thing! However, when we toe the line of holiday burnout, self-care is the lifeline that pulls you back to safety.
Crossroads’ parent organization Family Solutions Group recently published a self-care journal to teach its readers how to build healthy habits into their lives with self-care strategies. In today’s blog post, I would like to introduce some often overlooked aspects of self-care, which might just save you this holiday season! The next time you feel overwhelmed, overworked, underappreciated, or stretched too thin, reflect on these strategies to build self-care into your routines.
Strategy 1: Check in with yourself about your internal battery level
Your internal battery refers to the total amount of mental and emotional energy you have available, and it is unique to you! Some people have large DD batteries, while others run on AAA’s. Your battery level can change from day to day and is impacted by external and internal factors.
Unless you are plugged into a charging source, your energy will drain as you use it, and eventually, you will need to recharge. It is not selfish to dock your system! Taking care of your personal system shows self-respect, and respect for the others you spend time with. When you dedicate time and energy to what recharges you, your battery capacity grows over time, enhancing your ability to contribute in the long-term.
Take a moment to reflect on the size of your internal battery, what drains it, and what recharges you. When you feel your internal battery beginning to drain, schedule self-care into your day to give you a boost.
Strategy 2: Set healthy boundaries.
We reduce negative stress by setting boundaries! These can be about our energy (battery), emotions, mind, body, and time. They determine where you begin and others end, and they are crucial to self-care.
Unhealthy boundaries can look like you taking on other people’s responsibilities as your own, oversharing or allowing others to overshare to you, saying ‘yes’ when you really want to say ‘no’, trying to please everyone, or not being honest with others when you feel hurt. Having unhealthy boundaries causes distress and overwhelm and can even contribute to physical illness!
Self-care requires you to learn about and honour where you draw the line. Take a moment to reflect on what is and is not okay for you and accept that you have the right to set boundaries for yourself. Remember that you teach others how to treat you, and boundaries are about communication. The next time you feel that your boundaries are being crossed, communicate your boundary kindly but firmly.
Some helpful boundary-setting phrases are:
- “Thank you. I’m not interested.”
- “I don’t have the time for that right now.”
- “I won’t do that.”
- “No, thank you.”
Strategy 3: Practise gratitude
Recognizing the things that you are grateful increases your positive energy. Practising gratitude simply means taking a moment to notice the people, places, actions, things, and events that you appreciate. It is enough to even think “I am grateful for ____________.”
Research shows strong correlations between practising gratitude, improved mental health, and positive moods. Here are some ideas to practise gratitude!
- Email or text a person you are grateful for and let them know why.
- Say thank you to someone and really mean it.
- Do a kindness for someone.
- Keep a gratitude list or journal and write down the things you are grateful for, big and small.
Strategy 4: Determine what self-care is for you
Self-care comes in all shapes and sizes, and not all self-care activities will work for everyone. When you need to recharge your battery, you will need to find an activity that is right for you.
Self-care is divided into many categories: professional, physical, psychological, social, emotional, spiritual, and personal.
Professional self-care may look like taking a full lunch break or balancing your workload. Physical self-care may look like eating a healthy meal and showering or bathing. You may practise psychological self-care by journaling, seeing a therapist, or engaging your senses, and you may practice social self-care by texting an old friend or spending time with family. Emotional self-care might include watching a funny movie or cuddling. Spiritual self-care may look like praying, volunteering, or walking in nature. Personal self-care might involve setting goals and boundaries and learning about yourself.
Whatever fills your cup, make sure to do it often! As you finish reading this post, take time to think about what recharges your battery and how you can fit it into your daily routine.
At Crossroads, we know that you cannot give your all to someone else when you are running on empty. We hope you take time over this busy season to hold space for yourself, set boundaries, and practise self-care.
For a more in-depth review of self-care, view Family Solutions Group’s new book, Self-Care Isn’t Selfish. Give the gift of self-care this holiday season!