Art Therapy Studio Chicago, Ltd.
This time of year can be tough, as we wrap up the holidays and begin to prepare for the New Year. For some of us it may mean juggling multiple commitments,
balancing other people’s needs, or stretching ourselves socially, emotionally, physically, and financially. It may mean bringing up old feelings of grief and loss. We may feel the pressure of societal expectations of how we “should” be feeling and what we “should” be doing. As the New Year approaches we begin to reflect upon the past year, its challenges and triumphs, and prepare for changes to come. It is important to take time to care for ourselves during this time.
In my work with others we spend a lot of time talking about the idea of self-care. What does self-care mean to you? How do you practice it daily? Are there ways you have already been practicing it and didn’t even realize it? What is one way that you could give yourself a break today, even just for a few minutes? We often talk about self-care as anything that you can do to take care of some combination of your mind, body, and spirit (if this part resonates with you). It can be something that restores you, fills you with energy, or gives you rest. At the close of session we may make and share a self-care commitments with each other. It can be helpful to say it aloud, to have your commitment heard by another, and to provide support and accountability.
Looking for some self-care ideas? Here is a list of ten self-care suggestions to help get you through this holiday season. Use this as a jumping off point to get your own self-care creative juices flowing:
1) Go outside. You can go for a walk alone, with a favorite pet, or someone you enjoy. If you have access to nature, or a street with trees, take advantage of it. Use this as an opportunity to notice the details surrounding you as you walk. Use this as a way to stay present.
2) Notice your breath. Take a moment to spread your arms wide and stretch. It can feel good to create more space to fill your lungs with air. Square breathing is another way to practice staying in the moment. Visualize a square as you breathe. Breathe in for a count of 4. Hold for a count of 4. Exhale for a count of 4. Hold for a count of 4. Repeat for few cycles.
3) Dance. Hop on YouTube and search for a new dance move to learn (some suggestions: The Bernie, The Robot, the Lean and Dab). Pick something that looks fun, makes you laugh, and gets you moving. Practice alone or with friends.
4) Take a hot shower or bath. Add a soothing scent with an essential oil like lavender or jasmine. Light some candle, bring a hot cup of tea, or turn on some relaxing music. Take some time for you to unwind and de-stress.
5) Scribble. Grab a piece of paper and a pen and spend a few minutes scribbling. Switch hands. Close your eyes. Let it all out. When you’re finished, tear it up, crumple it up, or fill in the spaces with colored pencils. This can be good for releasing frustration or discharging pent up energy.
6) Color. Adult coloring books have been all the rage lately, and they can be lots of fun. You can grab one, or print out a free mandala drawing online. Spend time coloring by focusing on the color and shape you are filling in. Use this as a way to take a personal break and to practice staying in the moment.
7) Notice your feet. If you feel your anxiety or stress mounting, take a moment and reconnect with your feet. Put them flat on the floor. Press them into the ground and feel your leg muscles engage. Imagine tree roots sprouting from your feet and into the floor. Wiggle your toes. Wiggle just your right toes, then just your left. Wiggle your toes super fast and then ultra slow. Notice how you feel in your body before and after.
8) Cook a meal. Look up a new recipe you would like to try or revisit an old comfortable favorite. It can feel good to set a goal and accomplish it, while nourishing your body. Choose to savor it alone or share it with people you love.
9) Unplug. Turn off your cell phone. Log off the computer. Turn off the TV. Do it for an hour or for a whole day. Give yourself permission to say no and to check out.
10) Express gratitude. Take a moment to consider someone in your life for whom you are grateful. Consider calling them or writing them a handwritten note to express your gratitude. It can feel good to share appreciation with others and shift our focus to towards gratitude.
Dr. Mary Andrus DAT, ATR-BC, LCPC