Did you know that 1 in 5 people cope with a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety? And that 1 in 10 people are in recovery from addiction? If you have one of these challenges, you are not alone. And you may know that Christmas can be an especially stressful time, and that stress can make these conditions worse.
Even if you do not have one of these conditions, if you are spending Christmas alone, you may feel anxious or down about it. Or maybe you just find getting together with your family to be a bit stressful.
Well, it is stressful. Christmas Day is the number one day of the year for heart attacks. The second highest is the day after Christmas.
That’s why everyone needs a self-care plan for Christmas. Your self-care plan should remind yourself that you have value and provide for resources in case you need them. Talk with a therapist, sponsor, relative or friend about your Christmas Day self-care plan. This builds in a measure of accountability.
Here’s an example of a self-care plan for Christmas.
- Stay on schedule with medications, meals and sleep routines.
- Get a flu shot and wash your hands frequently to avoid catching a cold or other virus.
- Set aside time to relax and measure your expectations. Don’t take on more than you can handle.
- When it is freezing outside, bundle up. Sudden exposure to frigid weather is hard on your heart.
- Stay hydrated and enjoy meals that are right for your dietary needs. Decide where you will conserve calories and where you will splurge. Eat mindfully at a dining table.
- Abstain from alcohol or reduce it.
- Set aside time for exercise. Movement helps reduce anxiety and depression. You can burn 250 – 350 calories in just one half hour of skating!
- Practice mindfulness. Meditate, pray, say affirmations, do deep breathing, complete a Christmas craft or color.
- Connect with people. If you can, spend part of the Christmas holiday with family or friends. If you can’t, arrange time to call them on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. If these aren’t options, spend a part of the day around people: at a restaurant, museum, church or support group, for example.
- Do something nice for yourself. I like scented candles, so I will light those when I relax. Maybe a small poinsettia would brighten your day.
- Plan something fun to do that you really enjoy. Having something to look forward to is a big element of personal happiness. Music, laughter, creativity and exercise are elevating. Check out the December calendar.
Express gratitude. Write thank you notes for presents or send cards to people you appreciate. Say thank you to people to sales people, postal employees, wait staff and teachers.
- Laugh! Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, Friends Christmas episodes or listen to old time radio Christmas episodes of The Jack Benny Show or Our Miss Brooks.
- Plan for help if you need it. If you have become depressed or anxious in the past on Christmas, develop a self-care plan with your therapist. If you don’t have a therapist, call the Merrifield CSB 24-hour crisis number (703) 559-3000 for assistance.
- Enjoy a Christmas Day meal with other people in recovery. The Unity Club in Falls Church, a hub for 12-step meetings, offers a free Christmas meal from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. with fellowship and great food. You can sign up in advance to bring a dish to share, if you like.
- Plan something fun to do on December 26. Christmas day and the day after Christmas can be a big let down, which can lead to a worsening of depression or other symptoms. The way I get around this anti-climax of a day I extend my Christmas until January 6 (Epiphany), so that the end of the season is more gradual thing. I don’t recommend that you head to the malls on the day after Christmas, even if they do have sales on this day. Having worked in retail for years, I can attest that people will be irritable on the day after Christmas, parking will be abysmal and lines will be long. Do something fun instead. There’s still a lot of Christmas left in the month!
What other ideas do you have for a Christmas self-care plan?