Whole-Person Self-Care for the Holiday Period

by: Reesa Packard, M.A., Ph.D., R.P.

The dawn of a new holiday period is upon us once again; as the cool air sets in, the decorations are mounted, and typically, the to-do lists begin to grow… The holidays can be ripe with joy and celebration, but they can also be a time of stress. Being pulled out of our regular routines, eating more indulgent food, spending more money, being more immersed in the mixed experiences of family time, etc. can add up to create a holiday period that is harder than we hoped it would be. 

Whether there are specific stressors awaiting you this holiday period or you simply want to make the most of it, whole-person self-care can help you get there. So, what exactly is self-care? Self-care has its roots in 1950s medical communities, where it was learned that patients’ taking their own actions to care for themselves physically, spiritually, psychologically and emotionally was essential to their healing, health, and wellbeing. Now, decades later, the concept of self-care has been picked up by mainstream society. On social media, #selfcare now seems to depict a culture of luxurious consumerism and self-indulgence, but that is only part of its story. 

So, then what is whole-person self-care? While some versions of self-care can focus on a specific task that might help you feel better in one specific way, whole-person self-care is more like an attitude of overall self-reflection, and of building self-awareness, so that you can honour many different parts of yourself at once and care for your ‘entire self’. In this way, self-care is not only about taking a quick break or reveling in indulgences—self-care is about developing yourself, and your life, in a way that makes those breaks and indulgences less necessary to begin with. 

So, how can whole-person self-care help you this holiday season? You can use it as inspiration to get you thinking about questions like: “What is happening right now, how well is this working for me, and why?” “What is really important to me, out of all of this?” “How am I really doing?:” “How are my physical, spiritual, psychological and emotional parts doing right now?” “How are my relational, occupational, and financial parts doing right now?” “What do I want right now, what do I need right now, and how might those be different?”… These questions are the type that can lead you to become more self-aware, and as you build this self-awareness, you can have more clarity about the ways in which you might act to help yourself. 

Give yourself the best holiday gift this season, by connecting with yourself in the present! Try out some of the self-care strategies below: 

  • Physical: move your body or take rest, eat some nutrient-dense foods, quench your thirst, stretch your muscles, breathe deeply; 
  • Spiritual: immerse in a moment of silence, (re)discover some nature, attune deeply to yourself and others, contemplate some higher power or higher-order, seek experiences of awe and wonderment;
  • Psychological: build gratitude by naming what you are grateful for, emphasize relationships that fuel, and de-emphasize those that drain, ground yourself by scanning and taking in the details of the room and space around you; 
  • Emotional: practice feeling feelings as they arise, practice taking small breaks from feelings when they feel too intense, notice bodily sensations associated with feelings, try to fathom perspectives different than your own.

Professionals at CFIR can help you learn about and practice whole-person self-care. Contact us to inquire more and to begin or continue on your journey toward making yourself and your mental health a priority.

Reesa Packard is an Associate at CFIR. She has a doctoral degree from the Saint Paul School of Psychotherapy & Spirituality and works in private practice as a registered psychotherapist. She works with clients hoping to develop a more integrated sense of self as a means to well-being and meaningful, lasting transformation. Reesa is currently building a new service at CFIR called ‘The Integral Self’, which offers a place for clients to receive support and guidance in their advanced self-development, including spiritual and body-based growth. Reesa is also involved in the teaching and supervision of psychotherapists-in-training and advanced knowledge through research in her specialty fields.

How to Keep the Happy in the Holidays While Co-Parenting

by: Laura Moore, B.Sc. (Honours)

The media markets the holiday season as a “picture perfect” time to connect with your family; these unrealistic expectations are especially challenging while trying to co-parent. Letting go of “perfect” and working together with your previous partner during one of the most stressful times of the year may feel nearly impossible. Remembering every co-parenting situation can look different, the following tips can make it possible to keep the ‘happy’ in the holidays while co-parenting.

Plan Ahead But Be Flexible 

Create a holiday plan at least a month or more in advance of the holidays. This plan may be derived from your parenting plan or your separation agreement. While making this plan keep in mind the extended family and still encourage these connections on both sides. Although planning ahead is of the utmost importance, remaining flexible over the holidays will reduce upset for yourself, your previous partner, and your children. Believe it or not, the holiday schedule may be much more important to you than to your children.

It Starts with You

This holiday season (when you know you are going to be alone), make plans to see loved ones. Also, seek the help you need from a therapist to work through some of the grief and loss you may be experiencing during the holidays. In this process, you will begin to let go of expectations and find moments of happiness as you embrace new traditions. Allow space for you and your children to be upset and move away from the expectations surrounding the holiday season. By creating a safe, calm, and positive space for yourself, the effects will trickle down to your children as they often rely on you to help regulate their emotions and see the whole picture. Continue to collectively focus on what you do have together and not what you don’t have.

Less is More 

It’s not the presents that make the holidays so special; instead, it’s the presence of the ones we love. It is essential to communicate with the other parent about items that are off-limits for holidays and what is on your children’s gift list this year. Do not try and outdo one another; this will put a lot of pressure on you and make gift shopping and planning activities quite stressful. Try not to overcompensate with excessive activities and planning, and try to spread out the holidays. Most importantly, enjoy some of the simple pleasures of the holiday season. Doing so will allow you not to lose sight of what is most important!

Communication 

Communication should be purposeful and child-focused. When you show empathy and care to your previous partner, it allows your children to see you still have a relationship with the other parent in a positive way. Schedule a phone call to talk about the upcoming holidays. If communication is difficult for you and your previous partner, possibly invest in a gift for one another this holiday and use a communication app, either 2houses or Our Family Wizard. Most importantly, do not use your children as a way to communicate messages back and forth between you two.

Connection

Although you may experience feeling you are alone, your previous partner is probably struggling just as much as you are. Have your children buy a present and make a card for the other parent. Letting your children love and communicate with the other parent will not affect your child’s love for you. As much as splitting the holiday season is new for you, it is also a new concept for your children. Encourage your children to consistently communicate with the other parent via phone, video call, and text. Create a shared album and add pictures to it each day. Also, your children will enjoy any chance where previous traditions can still be shared with both parents.

You cannot go wrong if you put your children first and let them be your guiding light as you navigate the holiday season while co-parenting. The “good enough” holiday season will happen when we let go of our expectations and enjoy what we have created for ourselves at this moment. Remind your children that no matter who they spend their holidays with, the holidays can create a magical feeling that will be in the memories for years to come!

Laura Moore, B.Sc. (Honours) is a therapist at the Centre For Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Toronto. She is completing her Masters degree in Clinical Psychology at the Adler Graduate Professional School in Toronto. Laura works with adults and couples in therapy, to support them to overcome challenges related to depression, stress, grief and loss, trauma, and relationship conflicts. Her current research focuses on cultivating spousal attunement following traumatic experiences.

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