The holiday season is such a busy time of year, and it can really take a lot out of us. As women, we are more likely to be doing the heavy lifting during this time. There’s so much to think about, and along with financial worries and heavy travel, it can be overwhelming. It’s so important that we still remember to take care of ourselves. We asked one of our favorite myWorth contributors, Reina Zelonky, a Manhattan marriage, and family therapist, and asked for her tips around self-care during the holidays.
Take an evening bath
You can light a candle, sprinkle bath salts, spray lavender mist, use magnesium salts or just immerse yourself in warm water. Your skin actually releases endorphins in response to the comforting warm water, similar to the feeling you get when there's sun on your skin.
It's therapeutic and gets the blood flowing. This can also improve breathing, and the temperature and pressure of warm water increases your oxygen intake and lung capacity. Research indicates it reduces the risk of heart attack and lowers blood pressure. It helps minimize anxiety, slow down your thoughts and feel inner peace.
When we feel someone else's body, like either snuggling with our child, our partner, a friend or parent, it triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin which relieves stress. In western society, we are touch deprived and the research says that touch has the capacity to reduce illness and reduce feelings of pain, anxiety and stress. Oxytocin minimizes feelings of isolation and depression. Renowned family therapist Virginia Satir said we need four hugs a day for survival and eight for maintenance.
Connect to small moments
Research around happiness says that happiness is not complicated and unrelated to wealth, fame, or complex accomplishment. Happy people enjoy small moments. Sip your coffee and slow down, enjoy the flavor, the warmth of the mug, the smell of the coffee beans. Look outside your window and notice the trees swaying in the wind, the sun shining.
Lay in your bed and feel the weight of your blanket and the soft sheets. Notice a good interaction with friends or family, feel gratitude and love for those around you. Connect to good moments and you will have more strength to navigate struggle.
Positive inner dialogue
We spend the most time with ourselves and our own thoughts. Is that voice warm and kind, or cruel and critical? Talk to yourself like you would a small child. If a kid had a bad day would you blame the kid and say get over it? Tell yourself it's ok to have bad days, we all have them, and validate your struggle.
After validating your struggle comfort yourself and give yourself positive reinforcement. For example, you might say to yourself,
"you are trying your absolute best and you are so strong. Let's take a break and get a snack or listen to some music, this hard moment will pass."
The research tells us that by validating our feelings and labeling them instead of barreling through, our heart rate slows down and we feel an instant sense of relief.
Reina Zelonky is a Manhattan marriage and family therapist with a thriving practice. She has extensive experience as the lead Women’s therapist at the Veterans Administration in Los Angeles, an intake coordinator and family therapist at Hazelden, and a family therapist at Freedom Institute; both outpatient rehabilitation facilities in Manhattan prior to starting private practice on the Upper East Side. She has trained at Ackerman Institute for the family and specializes in substance use disorders.