Make Yourself a Priority This Season

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Dr. Mirgain on NBC-15

Dr. Mirgain spoke about self-care during the holiday in this NBC-15 interview. Watch the interview


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Dr. Shilagh Mirgain offers suggestions going beyond work-life balance and find the flowThe holidays are often seen as a time of joy and celebration. Visiting with family and friends, special traditions and festivities seem to fill the month following Thanksgiving. But many people also experience significant stress this time of year. So how to keep from having a blue Christmas or holiday celebration?


"Make self-care your priority," says Shilagh Mirgain, UW Health psychologist. "Think of it like the safety messages we are told on airplanes – put your own oxygen mask on before helping others."


Mirgain explains that there can be tremendous expectations surrounding the holidays – the pressure to buy expensive and numerous gifts, creating the "perfect" holiday meal, maybe even pressure to feel happy when we are feeling far from it. Add to that time with extended family, which can bring its own stresses, and it's no wonder so many feel overwhelmed.


"When you make your own well-being a priority, it enables you to manage the pressures more effectively. It allows you to feel happier and savor the positive aspects of the season," she comments.


To help you feel good will toward all, Mirgain offers a few simple suggestions to help you 'put the oxygen mask on' and connect with your own needs.


Do one small thing each day that brings you joy


Like many others, you may find yourself caught up in the "should do", "have to," and "must do" aspects of the season. When that happens, you may end up feeling drained because you're trying to live up to other people's (or you own) expectations. Instead, try to do one thing each day that would make you happy.


"It's giving you a chance to recharge," comments Mirgain. "Take a nap, watch your favorite holiday show, buy yourself a treat, call a friend or loved one. When you do small things for yourself, it can help you feel fulfilled and allows you to have more to give – your time, attention, love and energy – to others."


Speak kindly to yourself


With high expectations for holiday joy, it can be easy to focus on what isn't going right or things that aren't getting done. But Mirgain comments that it's important to manage expectations – things aren't going to go perfectly no matter how hard you try.


"The little voice in your head can be very defeating sometimes," says Mirgain. "Try to remember to keep your self-talk supportive. If you catch yourself being self-critical, stop and choose a different kind of thought. A simple self-affirming statement like 'I'm doing my best,' or 'it will all be okay,' or even 'nice job,' can make a difference in your mood and enjoyment of this time of year."


Practice an attitude of gratitude


In the flurry of activities and even the commercial messages about buying lots of expensive gifts, it can be hard to focus on what the holidays truly mean to you. Whether it's time with family that you don't get to see very often, an opportunity to give back to the community, or an affirmation of your personal beliefs, the true meaning of the holidays can be a very personal one. And one way to help remember that is by taking the time to reflect and be grateful for those special things in your life. Feeling appreciation for things in your life helps you feel good and can actually help those around you feel good as well.


"Think about giving the gift of appreciation this year. Make a list of a few people you are grateful for and reach out and tell them what a difference they have made and remember to keep yourself at the top of the list," shares Mirgain.


Maintain positive health habits


Rich foods and decadent desserts can make overindulging easy to do. Holiday festivities and cold weather can make it challenging to find time to exercise or get adequate sleep. Add in the fact it's also cold and flu season and it becomes a recipe for getting sick. While it's easy to let self-care go, it's important for it to stay a priority.


"It can be tempting to think 'it's only one time a year' but when you overindulge it can affect your health and even interfere with your ability to enjoy the season. Remember to make movement part of your day, even if you don't have access to a gym you can take walks for example. Drink plenty of water, get good sleep, keep sweets and alcohol in check – when you do, you'll stay healthier and happier," comments Mirgain. "Remember, your well-being is the biggest gift you have to give."

Date Published: 12/15/2014

News tag(s):  shilagh a mirgain

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