Seasonal Self-Care

Worth Living Ambassador Ann Ottaway

Ann is a 30 year old former legal assistant, animal lover, and a believer in new beginnings. Ann shares her recovery journey with the hope that her story allows others to realize they are not alone. This is her third post for the Worth Living Blog.

The holiday season is wonderful! It is a season of time spent with loved ones, nostalgia, decorations, great food and gifts!

But to be entirely honest as wonderful as this time of year is, it truly fills me with moments of dread, anxiety and guilt.

At a time of year where emotions are naturally heightened, I am on high alert with respect to my feelings.  Anxiety and guilt are amplified as a result of invitations to parties and family gatherings.  I want to attend all of them so as not to disappoint anyone but I ultimately end up at the whim of my nerves as social anxiety creeps in together with balancing hectic schedules.  I often end up exhausted from going from one place to another and talking myself through intrusive thoughts that make me feel self- conscious and shy.  I consider picking and choosing events but then I get anxious about disappointing and hurting people. Stores are crowded, homes are crowded, people are hustling and bustling and all of it makes me want to just stay home in bed.

The flip side of the anxiety is the joy that comes from pleasant times and catching up with old friends once I am able to ease into a social situation. Once I relax, I have a great time! The excitement of watching friends and family open gifts that I have carefully selected for them is always something to which I look forward. There is always the overwhelming gratitude when I open gifts that were so thoughtfully and generously given to me.

It`s  this back and forth push and pull of emotions that becomes most exhausting. My internal dialogue is along the lines of this – “I should go to that party. Oh but I need to be somewhere else the next day, I’m going to be exhausted. No, no, I should go, she’ll be upset with me if I don’t go. What if she gets mad? Maybe she’ll stop talking to me. Okay, I will definitely go, it’s okay I can rest up later. Okay so what am I going to wear? I can wear my black sweater. Everyone has already seen that, I should get a new one. Oh but I shouldn’t spend the money. Okay, different outfit. This will be fine. I wonder who will be there? Oh no, what if he is there? What if he isn’t? Maybe he’s avoiding me? Ugh, I can’t do this. No, I have to. Okay, I’m here. This is uncomfortable. Are they looking at me? I probably look stupid in this outfit. This person is really nice. This is actually pretty fun! A gift? I love this! This is so sweet, I can’t believe she got this for me! I hope she likes her gift! She does? I’m so happy. This is such a fun night! I’m so tired and I have to do this again tomorrow and then I have to work all week and do my baking and then wrap gifts. Ugh, I can’t do it tomorrow. Her party is so important to her, she’ll be so disappointed”.

Now imagine that all day every day for nearly an entire month!

Self- care tends to be put on the back burner this time of year for many people. These emotions kick in and I neglect self- care at a time when I need it the most. Self- care is difficult for me during the holidays because there is such an emphasis on giving and selflessness.  Self- care and saying “No” seems downright selfish when we are supposed to be spending time with loved ones. But what about time for ourselves?

This Christmas I am giving myself a gift – the gift of self- care. I am pacing myself, I am not saying yes to everything. I am setting boundaries and scheduling time to rest and relax. By taking care of myself I am also giving my best self to others and I am giving quality time over quantity of time. Giving doesn’t have to mean always saying yes, it doesn’t have to mean compromising your feelings for those of others and it doesn’t mean you take from your emotions to give them to others. Giving doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing.

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