Updated on 12/22/2020
For better or worse, the holidays don’t really feel like the holidays this year. Families aren’t able to get together, end of year office parties have been cancelled, no one’s dressing up for a fancy night out, there’s an eerie lack of Salvation Army bells, kids aren’t sitting on Santa’s lap, and we don’t have to drag ourselves to fifteen white elephant dinners.
Instead, 2020 brings different holiday considerations. We’re dealing with a million Zoom get-togethers, more alone time, feeling trapped inside the confines of our homes, missing loved ones, more drinking for some, less drinking for others, built-in excuses to avoid big gatherings, guilt for being happy at not having to deal with all the festivities, and loneliness.
Maybe you’re pleased about the change of pace, maybe you’re sad. Regardless, this holiday season is taxing in new ways. Personally, I’ve been surprisingly stressed, feeling the pressures of needing to be “on” more than ever as an online business owner and navigating the flood of requests from family and friends to connect virtually. I cannot wait for the New Year when I’ll get some breathing room to rest and recharge.
If you’re like me and are looking for ways to recharge completely after the holidays, here are 4 therapy-based suggestions to consider.
1. Set Clear Boundaries
I’ve always had a hard time saying “no.” As someone who grew up in a people-pleasing family, I feel a sense of duty to show up to each and every holiday gathering (virtually or socially distant) with a smile on my face, for the entire duration, not asking myself once if I actually want to be there.
As a way to recharge, Talkspace therapist Elizabeth Hinkle, LMFT, encourages setting boundaries and getting clear on which activities drain you. “Typically, the holidays bring extra time spent with loved ones, parties, travel, and other activities that can feel like obligations,” explained Hinkle. “This can take a physical and emotional toll, often leaving us with less energy and more anxiety or sadness.”
2. Build in Time to Unwind
While I’ve always struggled with workaholism, it has become even more problematic now that I’m my own boss and genuinely enjoy what I do. Taking a day off, even over the weekend, often leaves me feeling behind and anxious. However, I know from personal experience and my research on burnout in graduate school that taking breaks is the only way to mitigate the harmful effects of this type of ongoing work stress.
I can already tell I’m close to my breaking point so I’m trying to plan ahead and take a few days off in January to avoid getting sick. “It’s important to make time to unwind,” said Hinkle, “whether that’s being alone, if that helps you recharge, or spending time with friends over Zoom, if that’s what you prefer.” Hinkle is an advocate of planning vacations ahead of time — non-holiday related — to give yourself a chance to reset before you get too drained.
3. Embrace Moments of Self-Inquiry
This holiday season is bringing up a lot of conflicting emotions for people. It’s making us reassess our priorities in new ways. Who do we enjoy spending time with? Which activities are we relieved aren’t happening this year? What is the benefit of more alone time? When superficial obligations are stripped away, what truly matters to us? When I’m gone, what do I want my legacy to be?
Being alone with our thoughts is not necessarily relaxing. But at some point, we will get out of quarantine and this pandemic will be a thing of the past. And when that happens, I sure don’t want to cling to habits, relationships, and jobs that no longer serve me. Using this time to dig deep is a way for me to set myself up for success in the future, to pursue a life that is more sustainable and vibrant in the long run.
4. Drop the Busyness Badge of Honor
If you’re feeling burned out from the holidays, be gentle with yourself as you begin the New Year. There’s a lot of pressure in January to double-down on your goals and become hyper-critical about your achievements so watch out for getting sucked into the narrative that your self-worth is tied to your accomplishments. Hinkle suggests taking a step back and asking yourself: “What does achievement mean to me?”
Examining why you put pressure on yourself to always stay busy can help you uncover a deeper longing or fear. “Due to many of the cultural messages we receive about working hard,” shared Hinkle, “it’s common to experience guilt if you’re doing something like resting or relaxing that’s not considered productive.” She suggests exploring these reactions and practicing relaxing activities such as a few deep breaths in small increments to adjust to the reactions you notice. Therapy can also be useful in getting to the root of some of these long-held beliefs and feelings.
We all have different ways to recharge. For some, it’s being alone in nature, taking a bath, or journaling. For others, it’s chatting with a good friend, taking an online cooking class, or going on a socially distant family trip. Though this holiday season is an unusual one, it’s still draining in its own way — from competing priorities and different family expectations around COVID-19 to capitalist pressures in a strained economy — have compassion for yourself and take radical responsibility for your own health and well-being during this overwhelming time.
If you’re having difficulty recharging, completely recharging, during the holidays, consider speaking with a licensed online therapist — it’s an easy and convenient first step toward feeling better.