Making the Most of “Me Time” During the Holiday Season

Source: Photo by Audrey Fretz on Unsplash

Despite the pervasive message that the media and society in general send about being with family and friends during the holidays, we recognize that this isn’t the case for many people. Please know that you are NOT alone in that, whether it be due to logistical or personal reasons, or otherwise. It is all too easy to internalize what our time around the holidays “should” or “shouldn’t” look like, but in reality there is no one right way. If you find yourself with more “me time” to spend this holiday season, try getting back to the basics. In our day-to-day lives, it is often the case that we forget or feel like we simply don’t have time to practice basic self-care. A great way to reintegrate self-care during the holiday season is by practicing PLEASE skills. These are Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills designed to help you meet your basic needs and improve your quality of life. Each letter stands for a different area to work on.

PhysicaL illness/wellness makes up the first part of PLEASE skills. While it may seem obvious, we often forget to prioritize our physical health needs when life gets busy. Physical health can have a big impact on your mental health, and vice versa. If you have any physical illnesses that you have been putting off taking care of, perhaps use some of your “me time” around the holidays to reprioritize taking care of those needs. This could be anything from consistently taking your medication to scheduling a needed doctor appointment. If you’d like some help brainstorming, check out upcoming virtual wellness events here or join the Salient Lifestyle Center for an introduction to creating a wellness plan. If you feel like getting out and connecting around the Chicago area, register for an upcoming guided wellness walk.

Balanced Eating efforts make up the next portion of PLEASE Skills. When thinking about making efforts towards balanced eating, it is important to recognize the diet culture we so often see around the holidays. Notice if you are having thoughts of self-judgement related to balanced eating, and see if you can reframe those thoughts to center around positively nourishing your body while holding self-compassion for yourself. Part of creating balance may be around maintaining moderation while on the whole prioritizing eating in a way that nourishes your body so that you are better able to cope and regulate both physically and mentally. Love to cook but need some inspiration? Check out these healthy holiday recipes with the option to visit the Greater Chicago Food Depository to help find the food needed to make your holiday meal. If cooking isn’t your thing but you still want your holiday food fix, order your prepared holiday meal here or check out these Chicago restaurants whether you want a night in or out!

Reducing or avoiding use of mind-Altering substances can also help improve your physical and mental health. Notice if and when you want to or are using substances and reflect on what needs they are meeting. Perhaps upon reflecting you find that they are meeting needs that can be met using other, more healthy self-care tools such as those listed in this webzine. Using mind-altering substances to cope makes it hard to determine what is your emotional and physical reaction to the situation versus the effect of substances. Additionally, substances can trigger an upswing or downswing in emotions that may be less intentional or controllable. Practicing other self-care skills can provide a more sustainable, healthy alternative. Looking for help managing substance use? Local support groups can be helpful in finding community around the holidays.

Getting enough quality Sleep is essential in regulating your mental and physical health. To ensure a good night’s rest, try taking a look at your sleep hygiene. Reflect on what your night looks like leading up to going to bed. Perhaps you have a routine or built in relaxation time just before bed. Think about how you can make your sleep space as soothing as possible by adjusting your environment. This could include taking a hot shower before bed, placing your phone further away to avoid disruptive screen time, or engaging in a virtual bedtime yoga practice. It’s important to remember that while the time leading up to bed is especially important, other components throughout your day can have an impact as well. Join the Meditation Center of Chicago for an intro to meditation to learn how to manage stress throughout your day and calm your mind for a restful sleep.

Regular Exercise can help support the above aspects of self-care, including both physical and mental health along with sleep. Similarly to eating, the holidays can bring about feelings of pressure around exercising. Often, we start to lose the joy of movement when we take on this perspective. See if you can shift your mindset from “I have to work out” to “how can I move my body in a way that feels good and sparks joy.” Think back to a time when movement sparked joy and ways you might be able to incorporate that into your day. Maybe you enjoyed playing a sport or another physical activity as a kid, but have lost touch with that in adulthood. Check out Chicago Sport and Social Club or Meetup to find local activities that help bring play back into your fitness routine. Maybe you even just start with getting out for a walk around Lincoln Park to enjoy the holiday ZooLights! Creating a regular exercise routine requires that we practice self-compassion. Again, it is all too easy to be hard on yourself, thinking thoughts like “I am lazy.” Notice when these thoughts arise and try to reframe them to something more positive like “today I needed rest or wasn’t feeling motivated and that’s okay, tomorrow I will check in with myself and see if I can incorporate movement.” One decision or action doesn’t make us good or bad – taking this into perspective can be helpful when establishing a new routine while giving yourself some grace.

There are many ways to explore Chicago around the holidays. As mentioned in our previous webzine about a Solo Thanksgiving in Chicago, Choose Chicago is a great resource for finding things to do around the city this time of year.

No matter what it looks like for you, remember to practice self-care. If you or someone you know is in crisis, text NAMI to 741741 or call 800-273-8255 to connect with a crisis counselor.