Holiday Self Care

Holiday Self Care

Author: Sunny Rodgers, ACS

Illustrations by MICHELLE ALFONSO FOR BLACK WOMEN ANIMATE

 

 

The holiday season can be a time of high stress and emotions—whether you are in a relationship or self partnered; with family or friends- there can be intense triggers that weigh heavy on moods. 

 

What do the holidays spark in you? For some, this time of year can be a tender reminder of the loss of a loved one, a divorce or break up, feelings of loneliness, the frustration of politics, the fear of events happening in our world. For others, this can be the most magical time of the year, but the happiness is tainted by financial difficulties or an overwhelming amount of obligations. 

This special feature covers ways to explore self care and sex itself during the upcoming holiday season. We hope to remind you how important it is to love yourself and spend time around people who support and love you. We want to empower you to pick and choose how you want to engage with yourself and others during this time of year. 

 

All The Feels 

The holiday season brings out strong emotions for many of us. For some people, it is their favorite time of year, while others dread the holidays. 

The end of the year can drag up thoughts about everything you haven’t accomplished. Add to the mix families, partners and friends asking about your love life and it is easy to see why tensions rise as the days get shorter. 

You are not alone. The holiday blues can strike almost anyone for a variety of reasons. 

 

Solo This Season? 

It’s not easy navigating +1 situations of the holiday season. Often the first words out of your family members’ mouths relate to your love life, or your friends are trying to “cure” your singlehood with multiple date options before the ball drops for New Years. 

I want to share a nugget of wisdom – if you’re happy, your family and friends will see it. They can also see if you’re unhappy. This means celebrating your singlehood or accepting offers of matchmaking.  Whatever your choice is, make it with your own happiness in mind. Remind your family and friends that you’re happy and don’t need that +1 to enjoy yourself. 

Why is the holiday season one of the best times to be single? For one thing, everyone knows that a sizzling Spring fling is right around the corner, so why rush things now? This also means that instead of buying a lover what could be an expensive gift, you can spend those hard-earned dollars on something that, Marie Kondo-style, will spark joy for you. It also means you can have sex with yourself whenever you wish or accept that holiday hook-up with your besties hot brother. The last thing you need to do if you are self-partnered is to force yourself into a relationship for convenience-sake. There is already enough pressure on everyone during the holidays, so lighten up and count the ways to enjoy your singlehood this season. 

My wish for you is to remember that you’re committed to your own happiness this holiday season and, according to your Holiday Confidence Checklist, your own overall goal is what’s important. 

 

Have a Plan (For your sanity) 

Let’s start by getting more organized now. I’d like to share a secret with you. Someone recently asked me how I always seem so self assured. My confidence comes from being organized. When I have my tasks in order and can manage my own expectations, I feel more relaxed overall. That’s why we’re going to call this your Holiday Confidence Checklist. 

 

Holiday Confidence Checklist 

#1 – WHAT IS YOUR OVERALL GOAL FOR THIS HOLIDAY SEASON? 

Determine if you want to focus on a simple, old-fashioned holiday where the season is the focus and not shopping and commitments. Perhaps, in lieu of presents, a holiday brunch potluck-style would be the perfect way to show your friends how much you cherish their friendship. 

Is your goal to travel for the holidays? Unless you’re in retail, many businesses experience a slow down during this time of year, which makes it the perfect time to travel. Sometimes traveling to the snow, or an exotic location, can feel more like a celebration than a holiday meal with family. Choose someplace on your bucket list and gift your friends with newly learned recipes upon your return or a framed photo that highlights something special that happened along your holiday journey. This brings me to the next number on your checklist. 

 

#2 – TRADITIONAL OR UNTRADITIONAL GIFTS AND YOUR BUDGET 

Money can be a high stress factor since so many people believe that the bigger the gift, the more love is given. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A heartfelt present will mean more than anything that is store bought. 

Quite some years ago I was dating a fellow who didn’t have a lot of money. He was just beginning to learn how to play the guitar. In our dark room under twinkling lights he gifted me with a song he called Sunny that he had written just for me. It had such a strong meaning for me that I can still clearly remember that night and my musical gift. 

If you choose traditional gifts, I recommend making the task as simple as possible for yourself by utilizing online ordering with gift wrap services. Or, by emailing a wishlist request to your besties asking them for three items they would love – and by all means, you can invoke a ‘Do Not Spend Over $_____’ clause! 

For non-traditional gifts, let your imagination guide you. Choosing this is twofold. By celebrating your creativity and doing something you enjoy, you are releasing happy hormones that may help you feel calmer. When was the last time you painted, baked, made jewelry, knit a scarf, or wrote a poem or short story? There are many ways you can make something that’s overflowing with your love to give to a friend or family member. 

Don’t discount all those little things that you don’t consider a talent. Yes, origami animals and a driftwood mobile are true treasures. 

 

#3 – MAKE YOUR LIST AND DON’T OVER COMMIT 

Your holiday list should include what you will and won’t do this season. 

Do you want three nights with friends and two nights for family? Do you want an entire day to lay in bed and watch movies? Do you want to make cookies and have a decorating party? 

Make a list that includes obligations but also includes time for yourself and what is important for YOU to experience over the holiday season. 

I know it may be hard this time of year not to accept every single invitation you receive. However, over-committing can leave you exhausted, frazzled, and possibly frustrated. This holiday season is yours to make it what you wish. Do just that. 

 

And now I’m going to share two magic words.

The first is “No.” It is so simple but it isn’t used often enough. It is ok to say no without any explanation. Remember, no can be a complete sentence. Feel free to sprinkle “no” liberally all over your holiday season. 

The second magic word I’m going to gift to you is “Compromise.” It can be hard at this time of year to please everyone in your life. This is why compromise is so important. If your friends truly love you, they’ll understand that you aren’t available for every event. Compromise is also healthy in romantic relationships where you may feel divided between family gatherings during the holidays. Discuss options with your mate and compromise so that families and yourselves are all considered. 

 

The Gift of NO

 

Emotions Are High 

Why do emotions seem more intense during the holidays? Perhaps it’s because there are more stressors on people’s minds with financial worry and family obligations added to less daylight and overall seasonal commercialization. The holiday season has a way of multiplying lifes’ complications. 

Christmas, Ramadan, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Tet, Festivus, Pastafarianism’s Holiday - there are unique beliefs and celebrations around the world that are observed during the winter months. From mistletoe to menorahs, there are so many ways people choose to celebrate. Most festivities do involve gifts and gatherings, which can bring about emotional feelings in almost everyone. 

This year, there are six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, while Hanukkah starts later. These 2019 date discrepancies have forced retailers to begin their holiday sales and promotions earlier, which will most likely trigger feelings of being overwhelmed, financially stressed and fighting unrealistic expectations. This means 2019 may be a tougher time than years past. 

You tell yourself that this year will be better than years past. Your parties will be bigger, your gifts more luxurious, and your lover more lovable. But, deep in the back of your mind, you wonder just how you’ll manifest the idyllic scene that’s forming in your head. I suggest letting  go of your expectations and make this upcoming holiday season the best one for you, for now. Sometimes the most enjoyable moments are the ones that just seem to happen on their own. 

 

What’s Causing Your Holiday Horniness? 

As I discussed above, there are so many psychological factors that may make a person crave sex during this time of year. Statistically speaking, Autumn is our most fertile season. According to studies,  the healthiest sperm is produced in the Fall months, which may explain why September 16th is the most common birthdate

This time of year is also when everyone’s testosterone levels are at their highest, making libidos spike and causing that holiday horniness that seems to permeate this time of year. 

Cold months can also cause more people to long for body-to-body contact. Studies have also found that heterosexual males may be more attracted mates during colder months that coincide with the holiday season. 

These sexy, emotional feelings can exacerbate your other emotions, making your grief feel deeper, your discomfort seem bigger and your happiness almost overwhelming. So, how do you handle this emotional overload? 

Sex and masturbation are great ways to release tension and calm nerves. Medical News Today has reported that oxytocin and endorphins released during orgasms have been found to act as relaxants. Whether with a partner or enjoying a solo session, making time to give in to your testosterone levels may help you weather the season in a calmer state. 

 

Families Aren’t Festive… when You’re Noisy During Sex 

Maybe your house is full of family members, your testosterone is overflowing, you’re craving that much needed body-to-body contact with your lover – and you feel guilty about having sex when your Mom/Dad/Aunt/Uncle/Grandparent is in the next room. Or, perhaps you feel so crazy about the holidays (not in a good way) that sex is the last thing on your mind. For all you screamers out there, having to find a place for sex when there are people on every bed and couch in your house can dampen moods. 

You may actually be in luck! Quiet sex play can instantly make the situation innately sexy and intimate between partners. You’re immediately co-conspirators in a common “plot”, which is great for bonding. Some partners love a challenge – make it a game to see who can stay quiet the longest. Of course, a challenge like this tends to bring out the best in sexual efforts, which can lead to your hottest sex sessions ever. 

My top recommendation is to invest in a white sound machine. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. Just something that can provide a nice background that can be increased in volume to provide a bit of discreet cover. 

Sometimes it’s a squeaky mattress that’ll give your sex play away. Why not try a pillow-top or memory foam mattress to help muffle sounds? For a more affordable option during the money-crunched holiday season, try going old-school. Did you ever make indoor pillow forts when you were young? Try piling pillows and blankets on the floor and getting sexy in your personal love nest. 

Amazingly, sex play with both partners facing each other naturally leads to a great position for grinding. Close sex play allows bodies to intimately rub together – and allows you to quickly kiss your partner when you feel the urge to make a sound. 

Try slow sex play. Intense passion tends to unleash loud, impassioned sounds. Whereas slow, intimate sex play leads to smoldering moans. 

 Spooning is another good position to try for quieter sex because you or your partner can whisper in the others’ ear during sex play. Keeping sexual intensity at a whisper is incredibly hot. 

Why not cross something your New Year’s resolution list early and try tantric sex? Tantric sex focuses on breath control and sensate touch, allowing for a deep connection that aims intensity inward in a quiet manner that can create a mutual feeling of calm for you and your partner. 

 

What else is sexy during quiet sex? Try biting the back of your hand or covering your mouth. It visibly speaks volumes to your partner about how much pleasure they’re giving you. I wouldn’t recommend using a pillow as a muffling tool as I’ve heard a few stories from my clients about pillows becoming an asphyxia moment during the heat of passion. 

If you’re incorporating intimate pleasure products into your sex play, I recommend using rechargeable items for the quietest vibrations. Battery-operated and electric motors tend to be louder than motors charged by a rechargeable lithium battery. 

When there’s really no other option – consider shower sex. The spray of water can provide a muffling background to sexy noises. 

 

Self-Care 

I’ve left the best for last – practice self-care (said in my stern, motherly voice). 

The holiday season can open up connections that otherwise stay safely buried throughout the rest of the year. It could be a death. Perhaps your December birthday is often overlooked. Maybe it makes you recall that bad break-up. Whatever your connection is, it can be triggered by Christmas Carols, store displays, the scent of cinnamon, or the twinkling of a holiday candle flame. 

This can be the tenderest time of year for many. Recognizing that you need to treat yourself carefully during the holidays can help you navigate this delicate season. 

A 2015 study conducted by Healthline, 62 percent of those surveyed reported feelings of high stress during the holiday season. This percentage is rising. A OnePoll study released in December of 2018 revealed 88 percent felt high levels of holiday stress. 

 

Allow me to share a few tips to help when you’re feeling sensitive and depleted. 

 

#1 – MAKE SURE TO PLAN TIME FOR YOURSELF. 

Plan a night in once a week to enjoy your favorite comfort foods and a good book. Take a leisurely soak in your tub. Make time to keep up with your fitness routine and acknowledge that it’s important to take care of yourself, even if you’re not in the mood. 

This part is important – put this Self Time on your calendar. Don’t break dates with yourself. You need extra care and rest during this time of year. Don’t feel the need to give a lengthy explanation to anyone who wonders why you would rather Postmates than go to a party. Just take care of yourself and keep on track with your overall holiday plan. 

 

#2 – GO EASY ON YOURSELF! 

How many times are you going to place guilt on top of all your other emotions? You don’t need to give yourself any extra stress this time of year. Honor your tenderness and emotionality. It’s perfectly all right to give into the need to nurture yourself. 

Have you ever tried to find things to be grateful for each day? During this time, finding gratefulness and things to be thankful for is an important way to reframe your thoughts about the season. Don’t force this practice, but try to regularly count your blessings and become aware of the good that surrounds you. Volunteers are always needed at this time of year and can allow you to feel the soulful joy that you can provide to others. Check your local community food drives, homeless shelters, soup kitchens for volunteer opportunities.

 

#3 – CHOOSE YOUR MOMENTS. 

Yes, you may feel the urge to see your entire family or avoid them altogether. The important thing is to listen to your heart and heed what your intuition is telling you that you need. 

Rather than go for quantity and do as much as you can to keep your mind off of what you’re trying not to think about, choose a few quality experiences that you can do for yourself or share with special loved ones. 

 

#4 – SLOW DOWN AND BREATHE. 

This can help you manage what you anticipate will be stressful situations. Taking three slow, deep breaths can change your attitude and help you relax. The holiday season seems to move quickly. Set your own pace. Rather than fight crowds, order online or creatively make your own homemade gifts. 

 

#5 – TREAT YOURSELF. 

Be sure to add yourself to your gift list. You deserve to give yourself a present or adventure. This should be planned for as well. If you’re budgeting for gifts, remember to budget for that fancy lunch or handmade earrings you’ve had your eyes on. Reward yourself for being mindful of what you need emotionally and physically this holiday season. 

Personal Suggestion - Why not treat yourself with an engaging book? The Sex Ed has a curated selection of literary offerings to inspire and invoke conversation and exploration. 

 

But I can’t get the Holidays Out of My Head! 

If you find yourself dreading the holidays and stuck in a rut, then put your focus on January 2020! 

It’s never too soon to create your New Year’s resolution list, plan that spa day, research new workout routines, or get started on your plans to make next year you’re best ever. 

Although it may seem difficult at times, you are in control of you. Put you and your happiness first, be grateful, be gentle with yourself, and this may be the holiday season that you’ve dreamed of.

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