Listen to this article.
Navigating the holiday season can be incredibly painful and overwhelming when you know it will likely be your only one with your baby or when you are grieving the loss of that baby. You may experience a range of emotions, some of which might seem confusing or catch you off-guard.
You may feel stressed, anxious, emotionally numb, and physically exhausted. You may need to rest more frequently or decline invitations to events. As the grieving parents, only you will know what you need most during this season. And despite the social demands and expectations you might encounter this season, it’s crucial you prioritize your needs.
Self-care is the intentional practice of taking care of your mind and body. It comes in many forms, and it looks different for every person. It looks different depending on the moment, the situation, or where you are in your carrying-to-term and grief process.
As the holidays approach, it’s a good idea to adopt a well-rounded self-care practice that allows you to care for your whole body, mind, and spirit. This can involve many different activities or just five to ten minutes set aside each day to engage in a relaxing, enjoyable activity. There is no right or wrong way to practice self-care, as long as you are taking care of yourself in a healthy way.
Below, you will find a list of self-care practices to consider and incorporate this holiday season. At the end of this post is a practical application exercise to help you and your family identify the self-care routines that work best for you.
Self-Care Practices for the Holiday Season
Much like boundaries — which are a form of self-care — your needs may be physical, mental, emotional, social, and/or spiritual. It is important to adopt a self-care practice in each area because when one aspect of your being is taxed or overstressed, it will eventually affect the other areas of your life.
For example, if you are not making time to take care of yourself emotionally, you may begin to experience physical symptoms. Or, if you’re not caring for yourself physically, you may feel spiritually depleted, mentally drained, and socially overwhelmed. Fortunately, many activities allow you to address multiple needs at once.
Here are a few ways you can incorporate self-care during the holiday season:
- Intentionally plan for downtime and rest.
The holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint. Find a few minutes every day to just sit and be still, read, watch TV, or do something restful.
- Know yourself and plan accordingly.
If you are an introvert, plan for regular alone time to recharge after social interactions. If you are an extrovert, plan for intentional social connection regularly.
- Get a good night’s sleep regularly.
Sleep is essential, but it is often neglected in emotionally challenging and busy seasons. Create a calming, consistent bedtime routine to help you wind down at the end of each day.
Daily movement is vital to your well-being, but it does not have to be intense. Even short walks or gentle yoga can help support a healthy nervous system.
- Eat balanced and nutritious meals.
Enjoy all the delicious, nostalgic, and seasonal foods, but strive to balance them with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. Eating too many high-sugar foods can negatively affect your mood and physical well-being. Your mind and body will thank you for balancing your intake.
- Limit your engagement on social media or consider a social media break.
Social media can be anxiety-inducing and trick you into believing the lie that you somehow do not measure up. It also perpetuates the illusion that everyone else’s life is perfect and free from struggles. While social media can be incredibly isolating at any time of year, it can be especially difficult during the holidays. Consider taking a break from social media, muting people or accounts that are emotionally triggering, or being choosy about what content you consume.
- Balance the commitments of the holidays by engaging in your favorite activities.
Make sure you allocate time for the things you love doing, whether it is reading your favorite book, cooking, baking, hiking, watching television, or playing a pick-up game of your favorite sport. Making time for the things you love will help you feel grounded and less overwhelmed by the holiday fanfare.
- Make time for your immediate family and significant other.
The holidays often involve social engagements, traveling to see family, and hosting loved ones. While these things can also be part of self-care, it is equally (or more) important to allocate intentional, quality time with your immediate family and your significant other. Consider scheduling a date night with your partner, plan a fun family outing with your kids, or have a movie night at home.
- Eliminate some of your stress by budgeting for conveniences.
The holiday season often means increased spending, but when we are busy or stressed, conveniences can be worth the extra cost. If possible, set aside space in your budget to allow for expenses like eating out, getting takeout when you don’t have the time or energy to cook, or doing all your holiday shopping online.
Additionally, consider allocating extra funds for going to the movies, holiday-themed events in your town, or even taking a trip to get out of your routine and make memories. You may even want to budget for a monthly subscription to streaming services you can enjoy during your downtime.
- Acknowledge and hold space for your grief as it arises.
The holiday season is full of potential triggers, and it is important that you prepare yourself for the inevitability that you will experience grief at some point in the coming weeks. By acknowledging that, you can prepare yourself for when it happens.
Ask yourself what helps most when you are hit with a wave of grief, and ensure you prioritize that self-care when it happens. Ask for help from your network of support when you need it.
- Establish and enforce your boundaries.
Give yourself permission to place time limits on visits and phone calls, turn your phone off, set your phone to “Do Not Disturb,” or switch it to silent when you need a break. Additionally, give yourself permission not to answer questions, justify your grief, or provide any information you are not ready to share. Remember: You are not responsible for your family’s and friends’ emotions.
- Engage in holiday events when you feel up for it.
Give yourself permission to loosely commit only to what you really want to do and think you can handle, with the freedom to cancel if you need to. Consider taking a support person with you to help navigate small talk and questions, and leave whenever you need to. Say no to social events, requests, or anything else that does not feel like self-care in this season.
- Avoid a particular holiday if you need to.
Avoidance, when done intentionally and temporarily, can be a very useful coping method. Give yourself permission to not celebrate, decorate, or engage in any event specific to a holiday you are not ready to face. That said, be sure not to isolate yourself for long periods or without the support of someone you trust to check in on you regularly.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and you know your own needs best. Remember that you have full permission to pick and choose what feels right for you and your family throughout this emotional season. Feel free to adjust your self-care daily or alter your habits based on each holiday and your reaction to it. Self-care is not selfish; it is a healthy, intentional, and important way to cope with the demands, triggers, stresses, and even the joy of the holiday season.
Practical Application Exercise
This exercise will help you create your own self-care routine for the holiday season.
Gather a notebook and pen, and write down your boundaries and needs for self-care. Here are a few questions to help you get started:
- Do you want to talk about your baby, the diagnosis, and your experience, or would you prefer to avoid discussing those topics with family and friends?
- Do you need to build time into your schedule to allow for extra sleep, relaxation, or time alone?
- Do you need to factor in extra room in your budget for conveniences like eating out and doing your holiday shopping online, or entertainment like going to the movies or subscribing to a streaming service?
By outlining what you need and what you identify as most helpful this season, you will have an excellent starting point for incorporating more self-care into your daily life.
The holidays can be mentally, physically, and emotionally challenging, and taking time for yourself is vital. By prioritizing intentional self-care, you can ensure you’re giving your body, mind, and spirit the support you need throughout the holidays and all year round.