We’ve had an exciting year at Ballen Medical & Wellness, filled with new clients, new practitioners, and new modalities of care. One of the exciting additions to our team is Sarah Lustig, MAAT, ATR, LPC – an art therapist and counselor with a warm, humanistic approach to her practice. Here’s the advice that Sarah gives her clients to help have a successful holiday season:
Self-Care & Thriving Through The Holidays
(by Sarah Lustig, MAAT, ATR, LPC – Art Therapist & Counselor)
Holidays can be an exciting and special time of the year, but as we know they can also be quite overwhelming and stressful. For many families, there are relational challenges that are exacerbated around the stress of holidays and family gatherings. Large gatherings can bring out tension even in families who are loving and supportive. Traveling to see family for the holidays can also be frustrating and exhausting in its own right, from expensive and crowded transportation to inclement weather and dangers and stresses. In these chaotic times it’s important to stay grounded and focus on self-care. The following are some helpful tips to get you smoothly through the holiday season!
- Square breathing: Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds—repeat several times.
- 4-5-6 breathing: Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, breathe out for 6 seconds.
- Create a bubble: Imagine a soothing and protective color around you as a sort of protective bubble. Remind yourself no one can enter your bubble unless you let them. Your bubble is there to keep you safe!
Focus on gratitude:
- Sit down and write a list of all the things you’re grateful for. This can be in general, focused around the holidays, or focused on the people you’ll be spending the holidays with. Keep the list with you or on your phone so you can refer to it often.
- If you have family members that have wildly different viewpoints or are hard to shop for, donate to charities or non-profits in their name as a way to honor them and your own beliefs.
Focus on senses:
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, wear jewelry or accessories that make you feel good, wear cozy socks or a special scarf. Surround yourself with items that help you feel cozy and soothed.
- Use essential oils to help you relax and find smells that are soothing. Lavender and Bergamot are two great options.
- When you feel yourself getting agitated or irritable take some space. Go into a bathroom, run your hands under cold water, close your eyes and just focus on that sensation. Go into another room and look for all the items in that room that have the same color. These little distractions can help reset our mood.
- “I am not responsible for…”: This affirmation is great to help us remember we are not responsible for rescuing anyone from their distress, fixing their problems, or making sure they’re happy. We are only responsible for our own happiness and well-being.
- “I am at peace with myself.”: We all have those relatives who love to tell us how to live our lives or what we’re doing wrong. These relatives can make us feel really bad about who we are or how we choose to live our lives. It is important to remind yourself that it is your life and your choice. No one can tell you what is right for you!
Bring a friend or partner for support:
- Express what you need from this person. Let them know if you want them there just as a buffer, or if you need them to be more active in helping you avoid certain relatives or conversation topics. Often just knowing we have someone there to support us and be on our side means the most!
- If you can’t bring someone with you, ask a friend who has similar struggles with their family to be a source of support and be there for them as well. Text or call when you can to express yourself. It’s important to discuss these experiences, so we don’t just bottle them up and let them out when we’d rather not. It can be really validating to reach out to someone who gets it!
Carry a physical object with you:
- Bring a small object that someone you really love gave to you. When you feel anxiety or anger building, hold this object in your hand and connect with how much love you have for that person and how much they love you. See yourself through this loved one’s eyes and remind yourself of how strongly they care about you.
- Wear an object that feels protective. Pretend it is magic and its superpower is to banish negativity from those around you. Hold it when you feel annoyed or overwhelmed and focus on the color of it, the texture of it… and remind yourself it is there to protect you.
Remember the 60-second rule: It takes our minds and bodies 60 seconds to relax when we are triggered. When you feel those powerful feelings increasing, give yourself 60 seconds to breathe and take space in order to respond, rather than react.
Be mindful of alcohol and other substances: Remember to be conscious of the desire to numb or avoid strong feelings by drinking or using other substances. Drinking can help us relax, but when we drink too much we may say or do things we later regret. Drinking around people who we tend to have more conflicts with will only increase our annoyance and irritability.
Don’t be shy about consulting a professional: There are other types of self-care that can be helpful for you to stay sane over the holidays. It is important to reach out to your therapist to express your concerns and they can help you come up with an individualized plan of action to help you stay focused and enjoy the spirit of the holiday season.
From myself and Ballen Medical & Wellness, we wish you a joyful holiday season filled with love, peace, and laughter!
– Sarah Lustig, MAT, LPC, ATR
Sarah Lustig, MAAT, LPC, ATR brings a highly integrative approach to art therapy, incorporating Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Family Based Treatment (FBT) in her practice. In addition to Sarah’s warm, compassionate work with adults and families, she has unique experience working with children and adolescents with eating disorders, anxiety, and various other mental health challenges. She’s has also helped at-risk high school students and women who’ve been homeless or incarcerated due to mental illness.
Have any questions about Sarah’s art therapy and counseling practice? Call our front desk at (720)222-0550 to learn more—or schedule your first appointment with Sarah!