This time of year always seems to be about “perfection.” I can’t tell you how many times just in the last week someone has asked me for the “perfect cookie recipe” or or which of my two books would make a “perfect gift.”
As a recovering perfectionist myself, I tend to steer away from this language, although I do get the sentiment. Everything for the holidays is marketed as the “perfect: you name it” and I think it’s one of the reasons there are such high expectations about this time of year.
For me though, this season always seems to be a bit triggering and I think it’s important to be honest about that. Not only being a sexual violence survivor with an anniversary in the month of December but living with depression and OCD manifested anxiety, everything seems to come with an extra volume frequency and don’t even get me started about diet culture!
For these reasons I am someone who often prepares for the imperfections of the season and this year I feel it ten fold; we all do. If you live on planet earth, the holiday season is going to look different than it usually does: not just in the overt ways of cancelling gatherings or holiday parties but within our minds: the loneliness or longing we may feel deep in our hearts or just the pure anxiety we feel in our chests.
As a mental health advocate and author who just wrote her memoir in the framework of a recipe, I feel like food metaphors and baking language just help people “get it”. So here is the “perfect” (not so perfect—because we all need different things) recipe for the holiday season: the one for taking care of your mental health.
– Honesty about your feelings
-Time to Yourself
Honesty: The first thing you can do for yourself and those around you is get honest about your feelings. What is going on for you right now? What feels good? It’s ok, to feel good!! What doesn’t? What can you do that’s in your control right now?
Support: Now, that you have been honest about your feelings and put them in a metaphorical bowl, it’s time to stir in support. This doesn’t have to look like professional support, but it can! How about family, friends? Or have you checked out platforms to search for support? Like Psychologytoday or Zencare. There are even some amazing initiatives that offer a number of free sessions for frontline workers: like The Care Collective.
Now that you have identified support, put that aside and give yourself a little time to yourself. I am an extrovert through and through, but I have actually learned how beneficial alone time can be. Do something nice for yourself, and it doesn’t have to be something other people approve of. “Nice for yourself” can be a nap, it can be doing laundry or crossing things off your to do list, it can be lighting a candle: anything to recharge.
Fold in the time alone with vulnerability. Vulnerability is scary but take it from someone who constantly practices this: it gets easier and it’s actually a great vehicle for deep connection. Even if you open up a little bit with one person. that’s success.
Add the ingredients in both mixtures to a large pan to bake and sprinkle with connection. We have all had to rethink what connection means and looks like this year! And I get it, zoom fatigue is so real, but it doesn’t mean it’s not impossible. If it’s not human connection, maybe it’s connection with a pet or the larger environment, going outside—connect.
Whatever you need this year, be true to you: self compassion is key and mental health is number one. It doesn’t have to be perfect, nothing is, it just has to get you through.