Caring Currents

Happy Holidays to YOU; 5 Ways to Care for Yourself This Christmas

Last updated:

December 24, 2009
Gifts? Already?
Image by mysza831 used under the creative commons attribution license.

When you're caring for someone, or several someones, it can easily feel like you're stuck on a one-way street. I can't tell you how many holiday seasons I've spent running around trying to make everyone happy, and feeling a little hollow at the core. A little voice echoes in my head, saying, "I sure wish someone cared whether I have a good holiday too...."

And let's be honest, that feeling that no one's looking out for you can give the holidays an undercurrent of sadness and resentment, even as you try your darndest to make everything merry and bright.

What you need, of course, is a little acknowledgement. Someone to notice your hard work and reward it with attention, affection, maybe a pampering gift or two. The problem is, trying to get others to reciprocate your caring is likely to lead to disappointment as well. Demanding acknowledgement tends to sap the moment of any satisfaction.

And it can be pretty hard to change other peoples' behavior. Just about the only thing we can effectively change is our own. So I've started a new tradition; I take care of myself at the holidays. I know, it sounds a little selfish, a little silly even. But you'd be surprised how well it works. Here are some of the tricks I've been trying, most of them gleaned from other wise caregivers.

1. Share the wealth. The post-holiday sales are the perfect time to play Santa for yourself. If you see something (within reason) that would really make your eyes shine if it turned up in a shiny paper package, give it to yourself. But don't just shove it in a drawer or hang in in the closet. Tuck it away for a day or two, then make a ceremonious moment of pulling it out and enjoying it.

2. Reward yourself with relaxation. Creating festive holidays is hard work. What do we do after we've worked really hard? We rest. Take a lazy day to read by the fire, or splurge on something pampering, like a pedicure or a massage. You know you deserve it.

3. Let others handle the clean-up. You've spent weeks organizing and planning and preparing; it's okay to step back now and let others do their share. But you need to really and truly relinquish; sometimes we caregivers are control freaks and send out an unconscious signal that we don't think others can handle certain tasks. Washing dishes isn't rocket science, and neither is taking down lights or packing away decorations. Let others step in and do their share, and who knows -- the helping habit might stick!

4. Give yourself the gift of time off. Even if it's just an hour to walk around the neighborhood and look at the lights, or half an hour to soak in the tub, take time for yourself. Be straightforward: tell yourself, this hour is my holiday gift to myself, then take that seriously.

5. Visit a friend. When we're busy creating holiday spirit and taking care of family members, we're in the role of host, whether a gathering is in our home or not. Now it's your turn to enjoy being a guest. Return a call, visit a neighbor, reach out to a friend who's been wanting to get together. Let someone else make the coffee and put out a plate of snacks, and indulge in some well-deserved socializing that's not work for you. Sit back and relax; you'll be surprised how good it feels to enjoy someone else's hospitality for a change.