Just Do Something Through the Holidays

December 2, 2022

by chantel oakley

‘Tis the season to be jolly. Right? But, oftentimes, it feels like ‘tis the season to feel hectic, overwhelmed and stressed. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year have aspects to them that are joyous, magical, and hopeful. AND, there are aspects to these holidays that bring stress, frustration, and shame. Which begs the question, “How do I care for myself holistically - body, mind, spirit - during such a hectic season?”


Did you know that one of the first things people eliminate when they are busy/stressed is exercise? AND exercise is one of the BEST ways to manage stress? We often abandon our workout routines when we are stressed because we are operating in what is called an “all or nothing” mindset.  The “all or nothing” mindset is fixated on maintaining a certain standard of performance in order to deem something worth doing. For example, you’ve started a workout plan that has you exercising 60 minutes/day, 7 days/week. After a few weeks you are exhausted and getting injured because you are overtraining. You can’t maintain this level of intensity so you decide that you aren’t going to exercise at all because it’s just too much. That is all or nothing thinking. We ALL struggle with it!  

In my professional experience, the best way to avoid an “all or nothing” mindset is to adopt a “just do something” mindset. A “just do something” mindset is based on sustainability and resilience. Let’s play it out…you start the intense workout plan, your body can’t handle it, you rest, and instead of quitting, you identify a reasonable amount of time that you know you can commit to moving your body each day. Some days that may only be 10 minutes, some days your exercise might entail you cleaning your house, but you are doing SOMETHING, and something is better than nothing! 


We are learning more and more how our body and mind are connected. I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was a little girl. When I get overwhelmed with my schedule and “to-do” list, my anxiety kicks in. I get snappy with my family, I get really hard on myself, and I start to do what I call a “shame spiral.” Throw in some trauma triggers around this time of year and it can be a struggle, which can have an impact on my health. It’s not fun for me, or anyone else in my family. So, what do we do? How do we tend to our minds when life is chaotic and painful memories are triggered? Like many, I am fumbling my way through this journey called life, but here are 5 things I have found to help support my mental health during the holidays:

  1. Meeting with my counselor and reaching out to my support system.
  2. Tending to my body (fueling it with good food, exercise, and getting good rest). 
  3. Keeping a gratitude journal.
  4. Listening to music that makes me smile.
  5. Meeting with my doctor and exploring medication options if needed.


Just as my physical and mental health are connected to each other, I’ve learned how much my emotional state can affect my body and mind. One of the things my counselor has encouraged me to do is identify what I am feeling, what I am needing, and then reach out for relational connection and support. Dr. John Townsend contends that all of us have relational needs, my counselor has me focus on 6 specific relational needs:

  1. Acceptance
  2. Approval
  3. Affirmation
  4. Comfort
  5. Containment
  6. Encouragement

What does that process look like exactly? Well, I ask myself

  1. “What am I feeling (Sadness? Anger? Frustration?)”. 
  2. “Why am I feeling that way?
  3. “What do I need relationally?” See above list. 
  4. Once I have identified what I need, I reach out to someone I feel safe with and say “I’m struggling. I feel__________. I need ____________ from you.” 

 I recognize that, in some ways, grinding out the holidays, or escaping the holidays all together, might feel easier than what I am suggesting. It’s not easy to intentionally care for our body, mind, and spirit. It takes hard work, it’s humbling and it can feel messy. At the same time, I believe we have the ability to embrace the “both and.” We can acknowledge that the holidays are both joyous AND hard. We can choose to table our regular workout routine AND still move our body. We can enjoy some Christmas chocolate AND still eat healthy. We can experience mental/emotional pain AND still find joy. So, what if, instead of viewing this season as either one to be “jolly” OR “stressed”, we said ‘tis the season to remember that I am strong, I can do hard things, and I am not alone.” To me, that definitely feels like “something” I can do!

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