We hope your Thanksgiving was filled with positive connection to family, friends, and colleagues. For some, however, holiday gatherings are not always fulfilling when it comes to connecting with others.
To improve your own experience during the holidays, take a minute to reflect on past experiences to determine your desires moving forward. Then, consider focusing on yourself first as an initial and key step toward meeting these goals. It can be difficult to feel close to other people when your own needs aren’t being met; make it a priority to nurture and care for yourself through one or more of these activities:
- Journal: Write down your thoughts, wishes, or things you’re grateful for.
- Breathe: Take time to slow down your breathing through meditation or exercises.
- Go outside: Spend time walking outdoors, preferably in a peaceful space like the woods, a beach, or a park.
- Prioritize and let some things go: Think about what’s most important and what could be postponed or taken off your to-do list.
Too Much Togetherness?
Even the most close-knit families or friends can overdose on togetherness, making it hard to maintain a healthy ba
lance between bonding and alone time. Many families also have roles that each member falls into that sometimes have more to do with who individuals used to be than who they are today. Feeling smothered or misunderstood by others, whether by a relative or someone else, can bring more dread than love to holiday gatherings.
Think back to previous holidays and try to pinpoint how much togetherness you and your loved ones can take before feeling negative stress. Can you limit the number of parties you attend or host and the time you spend at each? Can you limit time at various celebrations so they can feel special and joyous, but not lead to anger or other negative emotions?
When others make requests or demands, remember that you can set your own terms. For example, you could open your home to guests for just one or two nights or tell people that you’re not able to have houseguests this year. You may also want to turn down certain invitations or be sure to keep some visits short.
Not Enough Togetherness?
For those who can’t or choose not to be with family, loneliness can be just as much of a problem. As the world seems to be gathering in groups, some people feel deserted and alone. If you aren’t able to be with family, consider inviting a friend or group of friends to your home. If you’re not a cook, set up a potluck or meet friends at a restaurant. Or, try volunteering at a local soup kitchen or another organization that feeds those in need. Many people find joy in serving others.
Since parties and events ramp up quickly in December, right now is a good time to think about which gatherings or people will support you and which will create stress or exhaustion. For events that feel mandatory, be sure to limit your stay or try to avoid the people you find most difficult. By planning ahead, taking care of your own needs, and setting limits, you’ll feel nourished rather than depleted, and you’ll be better able to enjoy time spent with others.
Looking Forward to 2020
As you continue to do inspiring work in the field, supporting your students and clients and helping them communicate and connect, we want to do our part by providing a community that supports and nurtures you. To help make this happen, we’re planning monthly blog posts like this one with useful information and tips to help you care for yourself while also giving your time, care, and attention to others.
We would love to hear from you on social media. Please share how things are going and any recommended blog posts you would like from us. Likewise, if you have self-care strategies that could work for other therapists, we’d love to hear about them. Let’s stay connected!
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Article by Elizabeth Sautter, M.A., CCC-SLP – Speech Language Pathologist & Executive Director of Communication Works