Taking Care of Yourself During the Holidays


Taking care of yourself during the holidays……Holidays are an opportunity to connect, reflect, remember and cherish. For some of us, though, they can also be a minefield, triggered by people, places, and events which may not reflect such good memories. While the holiday season is maybe not a great time to confront these issues head-on, it can be a fruitful time to test out healthy boundaries! Family parties, co-worker requests, or a partner’s expectations may all be occasions that we can exercise our will to create healthier interpersonal relationships.

The rituals discussed last month can be comforting—when they’re not, it is so important that we empower ourselves to recognize, voice, and follow our preferences: have clear preferences and act upon them. This doesn’t need to mean that you decline an invitation, but it might mean that this year, you finally do stay in a hotel rather than at the in-laws, so the kids can keep a normal bedtime, and you have physical and emotional space to stay centered.

Staying centered might involve paying attention to thoughts and feelings, rather than losing them in the whirlwind of preparations and parties. Recognize when you are happy or unhappy, share those feelings, and be flexible enough to change plans as needed. Healthy boundaries mean that you don’t brush off your own feelings for the sake of everyone else, every time. Yes, getting just the right toy, making the perfect pie, and decorating a tree might seem important, but none more so than being centered enough to enjoy friends and family. Your feelings and moods should not be shoved aside in order to make everyone else happy.

Our loved ones are likely also busy this time of year, and we may be tempted to be a “yes man” to requests for time, energy, and/or money. It is important to remember that tradition and loyalty should not mean there isn’t room to say no to a request you deem inappropriate, or one which makes you uncomfortable. Only do the favors that you choose to do, those that you feel good about before, during, and after! Chipping in for a gift for mom because you always have, should not overrule a situation where a job loss means a change in your financial circumstances. If your budget, conscience, or schedule does not allow, set limits on whether, or at what level, you can help.

Seeing friends or family whom we have less contact with can be rewarding, or taxing, depending upon historical and current relationship; while “catching up”, remember to protect your/your family’s privacy, as desired. Don’t apologize for protecting your private matters. Just because Uncle Jim shares his annual salary and details of his most recent vacation, doesn’t mean that you have to!

Protecting boundaries can be VERY uncomfortable at first; we are literally flexing our emotional muscles! That first workout at the gym hurts too. The goal for our relationships should be to feel calm, centered, and focused. Healthy boundaries allow a person to experience comfortable interdependence with others, resulting in strong relationships and positive self-regard. With time, acting according to our own desires and dreams will become easier, and the payoffs are huge! Let go of guilt, shame, and traditions that compromise your psychological health—who knows, you might be surprised whom you can influence by modeling healthy boundaries. Have a blessed and centered holiday season.

Julianne is a psychotherapist practicing at KMC whom enjoys working with clients to heal, and to maximize past, current, and future relationships

Blog excerpt:

Anger turned Inward
We harm ourselves when we don’t express our anger, because this leads to self doubt, a stifling of our energy, and the message that our feelings don’t matter. If the wounds are seriously egregious, we may start to harm ourselves as a way to express some of the emotion; it’s a coping mechanism, and we are handling the anger in the best way we can. But, turning the anger outward where it really belongs is very healing for us.

Research Update:

Are violent video games altering your child’s brain?
November 28, 2011, Fox News
A new study has found that violent video games can alter the brains of young men after a mere week of playing.

Exercise modifies the brain to help weight loss, finds new study.
November 25, 2011, Boston Globe
A study examining the neuro-relationship between exercise and diet has found that exercise increases people’s sensitivity to signs of fullness and satiety and helps overcome food temptations.

Too little exercise, too much TV tied to depression.
November 14, 2011, Fox News
Older women who got more exercise and less television time were the least likely to be diagnosed with depression.


Happy Holidays! Take time to appreciate your loved ones and count the blessings in your life. I see a lot of couples for counseling, and I see what chronic loneliness can do to us. When we don’t feel connected to others, whether it is our significant other, friends or family, we feel lonely. We need people! And we need closeness in order to feel the “best”. Nurture those relationships- they are the most important thing in our lives. My own family will be spending the holiday in Italy to celebrate 20 years of marriage. If you check in with my Blog, there will be more on this (anniversary and trip) in the upcoming weeks. Julianne wrote an article in this issue to follow up on “family rituals”. Enjoy! Be gentle with yourself and others.
See you next year!

Devona Marshall Clinic Director