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5 Self Care Tips to Thrive This Holiday Season
by Jared Williams
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December 6, 2018

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5 Self Care Tips to Thrive This Holiday Season

His love for the holiday season was often overshadowed by depleted bank accounts and energy. But he learned how to keep himself moving toward self love and spiritual purpose during the most wonderful time of the year, while indulging in all of its pomp and pleasures.  

BlackLove.com writer Jared Williams
Courtesy of Jared Williams

Personally, I look forward to the holiday season every year. Growing up, I rarely saw a perfect Christmas, but the way the season transforms New Orleans will always be one of my favorite things. I will forever live for my Nana’s gumbo, which is most enjoyable when there’s a chill in the air, and it’s also one of the few times in the year that Louisiana feels like it has actual seasons. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the corny TV movies, but there is something about this time of year that traps me.

Being the child of a parent who works in retail, our holidays have rarely looked the same. Some years I would wake up throughout the night, anxious to see what was there in the morning, only to hear my mom still cooking and wrapping, knowing that I would be waking her up at the first sight of day, no matter what time she finished. There were some holidays where, to my disappointment, there would be no gifts to find in the morning. There would be some holidays that I would spend alone once I left for school, and some that I would be invited to spend with friends whose families clearly operated with a tradition that drew in cousins and other relatives.

Safe to say that my journey toward understanding how to keep myself moving toward self love and spiritual purpose has meant observing how we engage in the holiday season. What were the pitfalls that brought out anxiety in interactions with family members? What were the behaviors that elevated my own stress level and that of those around me? Basically, how do you manage all of the extra and still thrive during the holiday season?  

These five tips are the best of what I have learned:

Top 5 Holiday Self Care Tips

1. Budget

Courtesy image

Nothing sets my anxiety on fire like looking up from the holiday hype to find that I’ve overspent. And overspending can be easy for me because “gift giving” can be described as one of my love languages. It feels like a puzzle. I think about the people I love, what I’ve heard them say they want, and also what I’ve heard them communicate, in no particular way, that they need. My goal is to find the gift that balances the two, simultaneously making their lives a little easier, while rising to the top of the gift-giving game (please believe there is a gift giving game). It’s easy, however, to let this get the better of me. What was at first a list of 3-4 people to get gifts for has somehow snowballed into a list of 8-10. Then there’s that coworker that got me a gift, so I should get them something too, right? And my (kind of) boss who just had two of the most adorable twins. And then my friend that brought me to the airport that time. In short, the Season of Giving knows no limits, but my checking account does.

Don’t venture into the water that is gift giving without first understanding what your finances look like and if the holiday season makes them look at all different. Will you be getting a paycheck a month early because your office is closed, leaving you to budget until the middle of January? Will your bank be giving the gift of letting you skip this month’s credit card payment? First, understand just how much money you have to spend on gifts in general. Then out of that money, how much should you be spending on gifts? The answer for me is always less than what you’ve budgeted so the rest can allow me to live my best life come the New Year. Finally, resist the urge to “shop till you drop” in the name of gift-giving.  Instead, identify the folks you want to get a meaningful gift for, and those who would be just as happy receiving a thoughtful card in the mail. This way, I get to enjoy my gift giving and also know that I won’t wake up in cold sweats wondering if the leftovers in my fridge will have to last me to my paycheck.

2. Keep That Same Energy

Courtesy of @tonl
Courtesy of @tonl

One of the things I look forward to during the holiday season is the idea of spending time with friends and family. Decorating, drinking, eating, being unapologetically excited about singing every part of Silent Night by the Temptations (on key) — I look forward to these moments all year. At the same time, I can’t let my excitement lead me to forget who I am. In my natural state, I’m an introvert that enjoys being at home or being in the gym. Someone who is enthralled by listening to Michelle Obama reading Becoming to the point that I think I’m “binge-listening.” The point is that the holidays bring more excursions, family functions, Friendsgivings, and festivities than usual. Before I know it, I’m trying to figure out why I feel “off” or like my brain won’t shut down. Then I remember:

The holidays are all about managing your energy.

Maybe more than any other season, it’s important to remember to take time to myself. I don’t find myself short of invitations to functions, dinners, and kickbacks, but I have to resist feeling like I have to go to every single one. I don’t. My friends and family know me, and they love me for who they know me to be. They know I’m sometimes so energetic that it seems like I’m on something, and they also know that I tend to spend most of my time recharging alone. Either way, I know I have to maintain a boundary that demonstrates that I prioritize taking care of myself. That means I also I need to make sure I’m keeping my energy in check by recharging alone at home or in the gym when I need to, so that I show up fully to the get-togethers I do attend.

3. Recharge That Energy

Photography by Christian Adkins

At some point during the holidays, my job goes on break and my week that is usually governed by a practical schedule is now kind of up in the air. At this point, I’m doing better at managing my energy and knowing when I do and don’t have the energy to be social, but what do I do while I’m here? Find a show to binge? Read a book? Yes and yes. Last year, I discovered the importance of finding things that fill my spirit and curated a couple TV shows and audiobooks to make my time spent recharging at home also a time to charge my spirit.

Last year I accidentally started with watching Oprah’s Master Class, and that alone was enough to turn me down a road of SuperSoul Sundays, blogs, and (in a somewhat related thread) episodes of Empire. I thought about my career and where I aspired to go. I thought about my life and the milestones I hoped to achieve. Whether I was working toward marriage or just working. Whether kids were really something I always wanted or if kids were actually a non-negotiable. I spent a considerable amount of time understanding what kind of man I wanted to be, but also what kind of man I wanted to marry and build a life with. I created a vision board with my friend that is still to this day in plain sight in my living room (and slowly unfolding into reality). The holidays are a time surrounded by the concepts of love, gratitude, peace, and joy — the perfect universal energy for me to grow from.

4. Be Present

Courtesy of @manoucheka_lacherie

With my mom working a retail job, I spent a considerable amount of my childhood in malls marveling at 15-foot Christmas trees and crowds of people hustling to find presents all against the musical backdrop of holiday classics that created the soundtrack for the entire experience. Every store seemed to have the perfect ads to draw in the crowd — something that appealed to the idealist. An image of kids laughing on a sled in snow offset by the phrase “10% off select clearance.” Or a family sitting in front of a fireplace in matching onesies that were buy one, get one free. There was no shortage of dreams being sold to me and I was here for all of it.

That was where I started developing my concept for what the holidays are supposed to look like. Families that commit to coming together in one well-decorated house to sit around the dinner table and fellowship in front of the strategically positioned Martha Stewart dinnerware. The kids off in the kitchen allowed to playfully participate in baking cookies for Santa with a top of the line 5-in-1 stand mixer. This was the goal, and despite my best efforts, it was never going to materialize for me.

Even when I grew older and more independent, I still held some ideal of what the holidays look like — doing my best to craft an experience with friends and family that would establish meaningful memories or, better yet, traditions. I would develop a formula for how much time we should spend at each person’s home given 1) whether or not I can trust their cooking, 2) whether or not I can stand the conversation, and 3) how new family drama might be affecting relationship dynamics. I was spending my energy constructing the perfect day or series of days. Crafting in my mind how I was going to move my friends and family into place for my own version of the storefront ads. Ultimately, this would be energy better spent doing something else.

Some of the best holidays I’ve spent were the ones with no expectations or schedules. Where my Christmas outfit is more often than not, hidden by the closest blanket I can find to sleep off the gumbo, potato salad, and two slices of pie. The best holidays I’ve spent are the ones where I’m allowed to just be present, completely unfazed or unaware of the things I could or should be doing. I think it’s Brene Brown that speaks to the value in letting go of what should be and embracing what is. That isn’t just true of our relationships with ourselves, it’s also true of our relationships with those around us.

5. Gratitude

credit: Lifewire

Every good holiday movie ends with some sort of revelation. At the beginning, the main character has been tormenting themselves or other people, having lost the true meaning of Christmas. Then, some dilemma comes up and now our holiday is threatened by the unforeseen circumstances. But just in time, toward the end of the film, something brings us together and reminds us that we only need each other and the love in our hearts to celebrate the holidays. I mean the concept has been applied recklessly to scripts for decades, but there’s truth in it!

One of the most essential ways to get at thriving during the holiday season is that I operate with a deep sense of gratitude for how my past experiences have gotten me this far — not where I want to be exactly, but also not where I have been. Instead of wishing I could change past Christmas mornings, I have the chance to improve another child’s Christmas morning.

Instead of falling into the anxiety of creating the perfect holiday season, I focus on putting myself in various loving environments where I’m accepted and not tolerated, and where I can fully receive authentic love. I do my best to keep a joyful heart, assuming the best in people and their intentions. Instead of taking things personal, being more committed to understanding a cause for someone’s behavior that might have nothing to do with me. I might try (even if only for a week) keeping a gratitude journal – keeping track of one or two things each day that bring me joy or make me feel good.

At the end of it all, I love this time of year for so many reasons, but the most important seems to be that in a world that is becoming increasingly chaotic and divisive…

The holiday season is (for now) still a season that calls us to slow down, ground ourselves in the love and experiences of those around us, and believe in something simple and joyful.

It’s almost like an annual, active meditation that reminds us of the joyful moments that we allow our busy lives and goals to pull us away from.

Take some time this holiday season to take care of yourself, so that you may fully and actively participate in its joy and its love, and that you may start the year refreshed and ready for all of the glory that 2019 is excited to bring.  

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