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Breaking Tradition: Redefining Family and How to Plan Self-care

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This holiday season feels how I’ve always imagined it would, and we haven’t even gotten there yet.

I love community. I love connecting with people and connecting people to each other. I describe myself as a high energy extrovert when I meet new people.

In June, I made a post in a Facebook group I’m in asking if there were any other LGBT folx who would want to get together. I ended up making a group chat with about 60 people and hosted a party for a little more than a dozen.

We span about a decade with our ages. Some are single, some are dating. Some are figuring it out. We all have really interesting stories.

Since June, a group of six or seven of us have continued to get together for dinner, drinks, yoga, bonfires – family brunch. We had a Halloween party a few weeks ago which was everything I think I dreamed about in college, but never had. Better late than never though.

Years ago, I would post on Instagram asking what people would bring to brunch if we got to hang out in person. I finally get to live that now, and I get to share Thanksgiving with some of my favorite people.

Like others who celebrate Friendsgiving, we’re creating a day for us to enjoy the people and the food, and not be worried about going to a place we don’t feel safe or unwanted. However, different than many, it’s on Thanksgiving and we’re choosing who gets to have our time that day.

I’m hosting two events – brunch and dinner. The house will be open and people can come and go if they want to. We have a menu planned for brunch – potluck-style. We’re working on dinner, but we’re thinking it’ll be sides (the best kind of food!). I have crafts, drinks and movies for us to watch while we stay in sweatpants all day.

This is the least stressed I have felt around this time of year in a long time, if ever. And this morning as we were texting figuring out plans, I actually felt compelled to write.

I’ve talked with clients for seven years about the holidays, socializing and how to set boundaries to protect your peace. We’ve made plans and thought of safe people to text or call if needed.

In practice, I’ve also tried really hard to use the same skills. You’re going to see some posts I’ve written get reshared the next few weeks talking about these things – mostly goal setting and eating. It’s also important for us to remember that trying doesn’t necessarily come without failing. We can’t control other people as much as we want to.

I notice that the holidays bring up traumatic experiences from my childhood. That doesn’t mean that I sit in the sadness, anxiety or depression, but there are fleeting thoughts that pop up still. This is also why I prioritize doing certain things around this time of year like holiday baking, sending cards, watching movies, going out to dinner and seeing holiday lights. I’m working on healing my inner child and giving myself experiences that I truly enjoy by myself and with others.

As the holidays pick up, here are some ideas I have for you.

  1. Give yourself permission to take a break: If you have the chance to opt out of tasks you don’t want to do and there are no negative consequences, take that break. Don’t feel obligated to cook if you don’t have to. Feel free to wear comfortable leggings or jeans instead of getting all dressed up. If you can skip a social gathering that you’re not interested in, go ahead and do it.
  2. Make self-care a priority: Your self-care routine should be tailored to your needs. It could be treating yourself to that expensive coffee or getting your nails done. It might also mean taking longer showers in the morning or changing the time you take your shower. I’ve had clients prioritize workouts, having their favorite safe foods on hand, getting enough sleep, or even switching from physical books to audio books. Whatever makes you feel like you’re doing more than just surviving is important.
  3. Open up to trusted people: It’s important to communicate with those you feel safest with. This means being honest with yourself about how others can support you and sharing with them what you need. Additionally, think about how you can support your friends during this time too.
  4. Prioritize therapy, coaching, or gym classes: If you’re involved in therapy, coaching, or regular exercise classes, make them a priority during the holidays. It may feel like there isn’t enough time for yourself, but removing these outlets can be detrimental. It’s okay for your goals to change, and you should inform your therapist, coach, or trainer if appropriate. Remember, you deserve to continue doing things that help you feel whole.

This post isn’t meant to replace therapy and individualized advice. If you or someone you know is struggling during the holiday season, here are some resources you can use and share:

As always, reach out if you need to.