by Anne Brodbeck, Streams Counselling –
As we enter the last two months of the year, life can start to get frantic for many. There are holiday events that require preparation and planning. The weather often is wet and cold, making it harder to get out for exercise and relaxation. If you have school-age children there will be a steady increase in additional events like classroom potlucks, holiday concerts and often extra fundraising activities. And even the shorter days can be strain for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or even just the winter “blues.” Give yourself the best chance at starting the New Year in the best possible frame of mind by considering how to take care of your mental health:
- Check your Boundaries. Set limits. What is your yes and what is your no? Be aware of and listen to the signs you’ve had enough. It’s perfectly acceptable to give yourself permission to keep a meeting short.
- Create an Emotional Budget. Just like creating a budget when we go shopping, we need to create a budget for our emotional energy. The best way to establish this is to start with an inventory of your resources such as time, circumstances, energy, fatigue level or travel.
Allocate emotional energy; ask yourself things like:
• What is the optimal amount of time you’re willing to spend at this event, or with this person? Be aware of quality time rather than quantity.
• To help gauge how long to stay, reflect on past experience. What was successful or disastrous? You may need to take a break or stay elsewhere.
• Formulate answers for favours you may be asked.
• Agreeing to disagree may be a more loving approach to family members with different opinions.
• What is your exit plan if things go crazy?
- Tools to Employ – as required.
• Permission – when you find your energy depleting and diplomacy evaporated, allow yourself to take a break.
• Breathing – breathe and stay calm.
• Listen – take time to listen and ask questions. Respond rather than react by being mindful of your own thoughts and behaviour. It’s perfectly natural to change the subject.
• Lower expectations. Be aware that some family members may be unable to meet your standards of behaviour. Be respectful of their limitations and choose gracious communication.
- Self Care. In order to be fully present, have a self-care plan in place. Some ideas here are:
• Allow yourself enough down time.
• Ground yourself with whatever makes you feel balanced, such as exercise and personal routines.
• If the way you are feeling is negatively affecting you, there are tools available, including light therapy for seasonal affective disorder. Speaking with a doctor or counsellor might be of benefit.
- Put Fun into Family.
• Be ready with light, uplifting topics of conversation.
• Prepare interactive games or activities that are whimsical in nature.
Remember, your presence is a gift. Keep things light and lower your expectations. You are responsible for your own emotions and actions, not other people. Anne Brodbeck can be found at https://streamscounselling.ca/.