You’ve worked hard all year and now it’s time to kick back and relax – as soon as you’ve finished replying to another dozen emails, the backlog of case notes you need to write, your Christmas shopping, wrapping, baking, holiday cards, and on and on.
The holidays can be exhausting!
Social workers have big hearts, so it’s only natural that we want to give and give, create magical memories for our families, find the perfect gifts, volunteer, and help others. But we still have to take care of ourselves. Let’s face it — the holidays will be miserable for everyone if we’re overtired, sick, and resentful.
During the holidays, social workers and therapists need extra self-care!
Holiday self-care for social workers
It’s wonderful to spend the holiday season giving and doing for others, but not at the expense of your own health and wellbeing. Make sure you’ve put yourself on your to-do list. Self-care is especially important this time of year because we’re extra busy and not following our normal routines. Often, we’re consuming more sugar and alcohol, staying up late, and skipping our workouts. This is fun at the moment but often leaves us feeling sluggish and irritable.
How can you keep things in balance? Can you pause regularly to tune into what you need? When will you schedule time for things that restore you emotionally, physically and spiritually? And how will you keep those commitments to yourself?
Take a real break
As a highly sensitive person, I find it’s important that my self-care includes rest and time alone. Regardless of whether you’ve got one day or two weeks off of work during the holidays, it’s easy to pack it full of travel, parties, and holiday obligations. And while many of these things are enjoyable, they can also be draining. Exercise, fun with my friends, and going to church are important components of my self-care, but they’re not the same as some real downtime, where I can completely relax. So, if you crave quiet time alone, be sure you’ve set aside time to spend an afternoon alone with a great novel, binge on Netflix, or write in your journal. It’s a real drag to go back to work after the holidays feeling drained and like you didn’t even get a break.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries
You need boundaries in all of your relationships – with your clients, boss, coworkers, spouse, children, extended family, friends, and neighbors. And they’re extra important during the holidays because we have so many demands on our time.
Boundaries are an important form of self-care. They help you protect your time, energy, finances, and other resources so they’re spent on what’s most important to you.
Where do you need firm boundaries this holiday season? Is it with your boss who asks you to work late or take on just one more client? Or do your in-laws overstep their bounds with critical comments about your diet or how you parent your children? Or do you need clearer boundaries with Uncle Joe who drinks too much on Christmas Eve or cousin Margarita who likes to stir things up with offensive political comments?
It’s helpful to remember that you have choices; you don’t have to celebrate with your in-laws or buy gifts for your coworkers just because that’s what you’ve always done. You can give yourself permission to do the things that you enjoy, shop within your budget, and celebrate in a new way if that’s what you want to do. You can politely decline invitations or leave early if things get uncomfortable. Check-in with yourself and listen to what’s right for you and act accordingly. There is nothing wrong with considering your own needs.
Savor the good times
Often the holidays are a mixed bag: some of it’s fun and fulfilling and some of it’s stressful. Boundaries and realistic expectations can help minimize the stressful parts, but you may still have to deal with some challenging people, situations, or decisions. Try not to let the problems overshadow the good times. We all know that a gratitude practice can shift our attention to the good things in our lives, and make the challenges feel a little smaller. Or you can actively savor a particularly enjoyable part of the holidays – perhaps it’s baking Christmas cookies or quality time with your kids. Don’t just rush through it; use all of your senses to savor every aspect of the experience and enjoy it to the fullest. This can help reinforce what’s positive during the holidays, even if it’s simply baking cookies.
I hope you’ll have a happy and restful holiday season and can use these tips to prioritize what you need!
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You might also enjoy listening to my recent interview on The Unapologetically Sensitive Podcast with host Patricia Young, LCSW. You can listen here or on your favorite podcasting app.
©2018 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved. This post was adapted from one originally published by the author on PsychCentral.com.
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