Preparing for the holidays can be extremely overwhelming and leave you thinking that your string lights might not be the only thing to blow a fuse. It’s easy to get burnt out when the end of November rolls around. The world seems to move faster than it did through the early fall.
Sure, the holidays bring lots of joy. It’s a wonderful feeling to visit your hometown, introduce your significant other to your family, or simply partake in festive activities. But there are many stressors that come along with the pleasures of the season.
Figuring out presents to buy for your friends and family, attending festive activities, and managing your budget might keep you so busy that you forget to practice self-care. The holidays become less about living in the moment and enjoying your time and more about preparing for whatever activity comes next. It’s important to take time for yourself as the busy holiday season approaches. Below are five ways that you can practice self-care.
How to Practice Self Care During the Holidays
1. Carve out time for yourself by saying “No”
December can feel like an endless “to-do” list of activities and invites. There are work holiday parties, get-togethers with your children’s friends, and social gatherings with friends. At times, it feels easier to say “yes” to everything than to let someone you care about down by telling them “no,” especially when you have friends and family depending on you for help.
But saying no when you need to will benefit you in the long run, allowing you to better manage your time and make space for the activities you truly enjoy. Rather than filling your calendar with every activity unnecessarily, you will get to pick and choose those that mean the most to you.
It’s important not only to schedule kids’ dance recitals, gift exchanges, and potlucks with friends but also to schedule time just to do the activities that make you happy all year round (which can be as simple as watching television by yourself or going out to eat with your significant other!).
Take time for yourself whenever you want to -- wake up 10 minutes earlier, sneak away from the family gathering, or offer to be the person who runs out to grab the forgotten cranberry sauce at the grocery store. Allowing yourself these solo moments will prevent burnout and allow you to live more fully in the moment. Further, if you’re feeling good, it will affect the people around you, as they will be able to tell that you’re actually excited to spend time with them, rather than just being somewhere because you feel like you have to. Give yourself permission to do less.
2. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness goes beyond living in the Kodak Moment. Even if an event seems picture perfect with every detail accounted for, make sure you are not just handing out presents, but actually being present. Take in a moment, rather than trying to snap it up for a scrapbook.
Meditation is a helpful tool when it comes to mindfulness. Engage in deep breathing, taking a mindful walk, or listening to relaxing music whenever you feel stressed or need a moment to yourself. Mindfulness goes a long way in managing your emotions and your stress levels during the holidays.
Another helpful mindfulness tactic is to focus on all five senses. During the holidays, there is plenty to see, smell, hear, and taste. Make sure you’re utilizing all of these senses to remain fully present and acknowledge the moment at hand. Take a few deep breaths and smell the bread baking in the oven, or take a long look at the lights outside. Deep breathing allows your body to reset and relax when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Pair breath with an awareness of your senses in order to be fully present and mindful.
3. Take care of your physical health
Making time for movement is a great way to release stress and anxiety as well as boost energy. Physical activity doesn’t have to look like 60-minute-long daily gym sessions. It can be as simple as taking a few walks around the block throughout the day, rather than staying inside all day long.
You can fit exercise easily into your daily routine, such as by making the choice to take the stairs instead of the elevator, or walking somewhere instead of driving or taking public transportation. Exercising triggers serotonin and dopamine in your brain, and helps to regulate your mood. It’s a great tool to fight against anxiety and depression, and lessen your emotional load during the holidays. Just 30 minutes of exercise a few days per week can make a huge difference in your mental health, and leave you feeling amped up to fight the holiday headaches.
In addition to regular exercise, make sure that you are nourishing your body with nutritious meals. Enjoy holiday snacks as you want, without limiting yourself, but make sure you are enjoying plenty of fruits and vegetables along with winter treats. Listen to your body and how you’re feeling when you make dietary choices.
Lastly, make sure you’re getting adequate sleep nightly. Losing sleep will negatively affect your mood and your energy, so prioritize your sleep schedule to make sure you recharge regularly.
4. Make a gratitude list or keep a journal
The holidays are truly a time when most people reflect on the good fortune they have in their lives, but it’s easy to take joy from the fun times without taking time to reflect and cherish the memories you’re making. Keeping a gratitude journal, where you list everything you’re grateful for on a daily basis, is a great way to account for the things you’re enjoying, as well as provide a resource you can look to in the future when you’re feeling glum.
Neuroscience research shows that even asking yourself, “What am I grateful for?” increases dopamine and serotonin in your brain, even if you never end up answering the question. Making gratitude journaling a regular practice will allow you to boost these levels time and time again.
If you find journaling difficult, use prompts to help your ideas along, such as naming one small thing you’re grateful for, such as your coffee creamer or your favorite sweater. Another option is to look around the room you’re currently in and name all of the things in it that you’re grateful for.
Engaging in a gratitude journaling practice can help to supersede the negative challenges during the holidays, such as difficult family or going over budget, and help you to focus on the good things in your life.
5. Schedule a therapy session with a professional counselor
It’s important to not only practice the fun, giftable forms of self-care, like bath bombs and coloring books, but to also commit to working hard and bettering your mental health through therapy and skills. Working with a mental health professional, such as a Mindful Care employee, will help you figure out how to manage your busy life and take time for yourself during the holidays, as well as give you coping skills for the future.
The holidays can feel overwhelming and hard, but you can use these tips to make the most of them and take time for yourself as the busy holiday season approaches. Schedule an appointment with Mindful Care to chat more about how to make this holiday season work for you.