The Importance of Holiday Self-Care
In today’s fast-paced world where we continually juggle the responsibilities of work, family, and other commitments, self-care during the holidays tends to take a backseat. We are constantly doing for others and giving to others, that we forget about ourselves. When times are the most busy and stressful, these are the times we really need to put attention to ourselves. If you are running on empty then you have nothing to give.
We have talked a lot about ways to implement a self-care routine. During busier times, such as the holidays, it can be difficult to stick to the routine, but you must. You still need to take a time out for yourself. Give that gift to yourself. It will benefit those around you too.
Also, think of other times during the year that are more stressful or busier then normal. Though we are focusing more on Holidays here, there are other times that can regularly get busier. In my family, it is the month of May. We have 2 birthdays in our family, Mother’s Day, our wedding anniversary, and preparing for end of the school year. Phew!! I absolutely treat the month of May the same way I do during the Holiday season. I have to remember to take those moments for myself to keep me at 100%.
Understanding the Holiday Stress
The holiday season, while characterized by joy and celebration, also brings a unique set of challenges. During this time people experience increased stress during this period, often manifested due to the disruption of routines, socializing pressure, gift-giving obligations, and piled up responsibilities. In essence, the holiday season can seem like an exhilarating ride that leaves you feeling both jubilant and drained simultaneously.
You’re going from work parties, to school parties, to cookie exchanges. You are baking this, cooking this, buying gifts, wrapping gifts, and we haven’t even got to the actual day o the Holiday! I remember growing up my Mom looked so tired on Christmas morning. Some years I thought she was sick.
I told myself ‘When I become a Mom I will not let Christmas get the best of me.” I want to enjoy the season and Christmas Day with my family. I want it to be an enjoyable time, not a stressful time. I want happy memories, not memories of nervous breakdowns, panic attacks, etc. So, how have I been able to manage this?
How to Embrace Self-Care During the Holidays
Stick To A Routine
Maintaining a regular routine of self-care during the holidays can seem challenging amidst the merriment and festive duties. But, staying on track with your usual schedule can ease your transition back into life post-holidays, therefor reducing stress. This includes maintaining regular sleep patterns, nutrition, and exercise as much as possible. Disrupting your sleep-wake schedule can affect mood and cognitive abilities. Therefore, indulge in the holiday festivities, but also value your rest and wellbeing. We all tend to indulge a bit during the holidays, however, it is imperative to get back on track as soon as possible. Enjoy your day, enjoy your moment, but you don’t need to give up your routine for 4-6 weeks.
There are times when I need to be in the kitchen a good portion of the day. I may not commit to my regular workout routine that morning, however, when I need to get cooking items from a lower cabinet I am doing squats. When I have to reach in a higher cabinet I am doing calf raises. When I have to hop up on the counter to get into an extra high cabinet, I do a jump squat coming down. When I am researching a recipe on the computer I am using the bicycle pedals under my desk. It’s little things like that that will help you stay on track while your routine is a bit jumbled. However, the next day, I am right back on track with my normal full workout routine.
When you know a busy time of the year is coming up, meal prep ahead of time so you have meals ready in the freezer to warm up in a pinch on those busy prepping days. Starting in October I usually make a couple batches of soup and freeze them. We smoke/grill extra meat to keep in the freezer. This helps on those days we’ve been running here or there, or I’ve already been in the kitchen all days making cookies, dinner is pretty much ready to go. This saves on having to eat out. It keeps my nutrition in check to keep me fueled and also provides for my immune system during cold and flu season. I also do more food prep in April leading up to May as well. Anytime you know a busy time of year is coming, try doing advanced food prep. Your future self will thank you.
Mindfulness During the Holidays
Mindfulness is powerful, and the hustle and bustle of the festive season is the perfect time to exercise it. During this period, try to put down your phone, take a step back from the emails and text messages, and truly immerse yourself in your surroundings. The goal is to focus your mind on what you’re doing or experiencing right now—whether that’s cooking a meal, lining up for a Black Friday sale, or decorating your home. By practicing mindfulness, you can deepen your connections with others and make your experiences more joyful and meaningful.
Our girls don’t watch a lot of TV typically during the week, however, one of our favorite Holiday season traditions is that every night after dinner we all sit down together and watch a short 20-30 minute Christmas Classic movie. It is really nice during the hustle and bustle to just sit down as family for dinner and then to watch a short movie together before starting their bedtime routines. Our phones are put away, our computers are shut down in the office, we are just together as a family. It’s a treat for them and it gives mom and dad a chance to just sit down.
Count Your Blessings and Express Gratitude
Amid the holiday rush and the stress that may come with it, taking time to count your blessings and express gratitude can offer a refreshing perspective. Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean big or life-altering discoveries; it can be as simple as appreciating a beautiful winter morning or a heartwarming conversation with a loved one. Gratitude can elevate your mood and invite feelings of happiness and joy, helping you manage holiday stress better. A simple method of practicing gratitude is by maintaining a journal where you can write down things you’re grateful for. This intentional acknowledgement has the power to shift your focus from stress to appreciation.
I love to reflect on life while having my morning coffee. I am typically awake a couple of hours before anyone else. The house is so quiet and peaceful. It is just me, coffee, and my thoughts for a bit. I look over my goals, my to-do list, my calendar, and then I just reflect on how good things are. I have my family, a home, health, food, and pure happiness. As I sit in the living room I can start to see daybreak happen so I open the blinds and some days I literally just stare out the window and watch the sunrise and just think how grateful and blessed we are. Sure we have our struggles, sure things are stressful, of course my life isn’t perfect, BUT I am thankful for what I do have. And each day is a reminder of a new start and a chance to do better and be better.
Decorate for Comfort Not Just Tradition
Holiday decorations need not only be about tradition, they can also serve as a source of comfort and joy. Consider moving beyond conventional holiday colors or symbols and choose those that resonate with your mood and comfort. For instance, soft, cozy blankets to snuggle in, or a favorite pillow for warmth can be great holiday accessories. Furthermore, the power of fragrances in elevating mood is well-recognized. Aromatic candles or essential oils that evoke pleasant memories can make your space feel more soothing, transforming your home into a sanctuary during the holidays. I love diffusing lemon or orange on a rainy day. It brings a pop of sunshine in.
I always remembered growing up, we only decorated mainly the living room. We hung lights outside, but other then that, the rest of the house was just bland. When I moved into my first apartment without a roommate I went absolutely insane with decorations. Literally every room, yes even the bathroom, was decorated. I did this for a couple of years, until I moved to Virginia. The first Christmas there my husband, who was my fiancée at that time, asked me “Why did Christmas throw up here?”
At first I was appalled, however, as the season went on I started to see things from his viewpoint. By the time New Years Day came, when I typically take down the decorations, it took me 3 days to do so. This was the first year it felt that boxing all of it up and putting it away would never end, even with his help. It was then I realized, I am doing more during the holiday season. We are a family unit now, I am cooking more, we are helping out with hosting. We are starting new traditions together. I wanted to spend New Years having fun with him and family, not just boxing up a ton of decorations, like when I lived alone.
The following year, I was very selective what I put out and what I donated. It was that year I really learned that less is more. Each year it seemed I downsized the decorations at least by 10 percent. The house felt warmer and more comfortable instead of cluttered. I had breathing space and was able to find areas where Christmas wasn’t right in my face. I don’t need to be visually reminded of the season. I want the love and the comfort and the warmth of my family home to also be part of the season. Even years later I am still thinning out decorations.
Acknowledge Stress; Don’t Ignore It
When stress begins to bubble up, it can be tempting to ignore or suppress it in hopes it will go away. Observing your feelings without judgement can help you recognize the root cause of your stress, and potentially guide you to practical solutions. So, give yourself permission to acknowledge your stress; it’s a fundamental part of self-care.
I have talked before about processing your thoughts and emotions versus just distracting and deflecting it. Burying your feelings might help you at that moment, but you ultimately have to process them. They will continue to bubble up and they will grow bigger and bigger. You will make a mountain out of a mole hill. You can do all the tips and tricks to minimize your stress during busier times of the year, but you still need to process your feeling and emotions. You can’t just hide from them for a month.
These are times for celebrations, for memories to be made, to sit back and actually enjoy the season. You don’t have to go to every party. You don’t have to participate in every gift exchange. You can say ‘no’ to keep your sanity. We have always made it a point during our marriage that we don’t bog down the calendar during December. We make sure we have time to just enjoy the moment as a family unit and not spend every weekend running here and running there.
Typically out of the invites we get, we chose one or two that we really want to do, then we also block off one full weekend for just us. Now that the girls are getting older and they are having activities come along that are being taken into account. But, we still have 1 free weekend where we will just be as a family, sipping hot chocolate, jumping in leaves, jumping in rain puddles, watching Christmas movies, cooking dinners together, taking longer baths, etc. Making time for those moments can help you process the extra stress we take on during busy times of the year.
Be Generous with Yourself
The holiday season, filled with giving and sharing, provides a fantastic opportunity to extend the same generosity towards yourself. Treat yourself with kindness, understanding, and patience. Understand that it’s okay not to be perfect or complete all tasks on your holiday to-do list. Indulge in relaxation, take time out to read a book, enjoy a leisurely bath, or engage in any activity that replenishes your energies. Being generous with yourself means acknowledging your needs and granting yourself permission to cater to them. It’s not selfish, but a sincere act of self-care.
One of the holiday self-care tips that I always try to follow with all of the Holiday gatherings is to always block out time for myself either before or after the event. This allows me time to either prepare mentally and emotionally for the event or it can allow me to recharge emotionally and mentally afterwards. There may even be some family gatherings that you find you might need time for your wellness before and after the event, and that is ok.
Start New Healthy Holiday Traditions
Starting a new tradition that focuses on well-being can add a refreshing element to your holiday celebrations and reduce some doom and gloom. It could be anything from cooking a healthier meal especially day before a gathering, trying a new winter sport, or simply taking a scenic drive to unwind from the toll that the stress can bring on. Introducing such traditions not only helps you transition away from potentially unhealthy holiday habits but also adds a meaningful and enjoyable activity to look forward to each year.
Just as when I changed how I decorated the house, new traditions can bring joy and light and just feel refreshing. Sure we all have a few nostalgic traditions, but be sure you are also creating traditions just for your home family unit. Sometimes you need to update things to bring new life and energy around. You shouldn’t feel like you have to do something just because it’s been done for 50 years. Traditions should be bring peace and happiness. You should not feel dread in doing them. Ignite a spark to your holiday and try something new!
Maintain a Regular Workout Routine
Staying physically active during the holidays is fundamental for self-care. Working out is not about counterbalancing holiday indulgence, but rather to flood our bodies with endorphins, self-love, and it can reduce exhaustion. Tips to maintain exercising routines while on the go can be committing to walk a mile a day, investing in lightweight exercise equipment, or practicing simple stretches.
These easy tools can help fit in workouts anytime, anywhere, regardless of time constraints. Sticking to a workout regime not only keeps endorphin levels high, but also supports mental agility, stimulation and resilience to manage holiday stress better. Incorporating regular exercising into your holiday schedule is a proven method of self-care and can avoid burnout.
A bonus tip while you are staying focused on your workout routine, make sure to drink twice as much water. Yes, twice as much! During the holiday season we tend to indulge in more sugar, more alcohol, etc. and that causes dehydration to happen faster and easier. Do not allow dehydration to be a your ‘grinch’ of the season. It will only lead to disappointment if you are managing everything else but still do not feel great due to dehydration.
Know your Emotional Triggers and Plan Ahead
Emotional triggers can turn the happiest of holidays into stressful ones. These triggers could range from seeing certain family members, revisiting past memories to dealing with the pressures of social expectations. Understanding your triggers allows you to provide yourself with emotional first aid when needed. You can devise an action plan or ways to cope to help you navigate through tricky situations and grief. Perhaps, you can schedule some alone time, practice mindful breathing, reset meditation times, or have a trusted friend or family member to be an outlet. Planning ahead can equip you with the right tools and mindset to handle stressors better during the holiday season.
One of my ultimate self-care strategies during the holidays and busy times of the year is pre-planning. This can be emotional planning and physical planning. Just as we plan and prep the holiday meal, I also plan and prep mentally and emotionally. I know there will be times where I need distraction briefly and times where I will need to reset myself. Taking the time to plan ahead allows me more time of enjoyment during a rather stressful time. I already know someone is going to say something. I already know somebody is going to be late. I already know somebody is going to forget something. I already know there will be some errands I am just not able to do. Accept it, process it, and keep positive thinking that it will all be ok!
Be Clear on Your Priorities
With the holidays often come a myriad of expectations and obligations. It’s crucial to get clear on what matters most to you during this time to keep stress at a minimum. Ask yourself: In an ideal world, how would I spend my holidays? What’s the biggest priority for me this year? It could be spending quality time with your family, taking a vacation, or simply enjoying some solitude at home. Understanding your priorities can help you focus on what brings you the most joy and lets you let go of the rest without guilt.
You do not need an excuse to prioritize with others and set your boundaries. There are plenty of organizing apps to help you set reminders, to help focus on a hobby, to set deadlines for your prep work, and to even help you swap out things in your timeline. You might think today I am going to do ABC, tomorrow I will do XYZ. It’s ok if that has to change and things swap around. As long as you know your priorities and you are clear on your timeline, do things as you are most mentally able to at that time. Staying organized will help you remain focused on what really needs to be done.
Small Practices, Big Impact
Understanding the Power of Small Self-care Practices
There’s a common misconception whereby self-care practices are often equated with grand gestures or indulgent activities. While those have their place, self-care also involves small, everyday tasks like personal hygiene, nutrition, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle. You don’t always need a full day at the spa (though you may want it). Such activities, like drinking water, getting fresh air, or even making coffee, all constitute self-care when done mindfully and they only take a few minutes. Such tasks may seem menial, but their benefits compound over time. Simply bringing consciousness to these everyday tasks marks a precious step towards self-care. These small acts can contribute significantly to our overall well-being and add an extra layer of self-care to your everyday routine with minimal extra effort.
The Effect of Consistent Self-care
Consistency in practicing self-care is key to promoting both physical and mental well-being. Its positive effects are well-documented across numerous studies. Regular self-care can contribute to improved immunity, an increased capacity to manage stress, better productivity, and enhanced self-esteem. On a mental health perspective, self-care routines can create a buffer against anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. A constant practice of self-care can transform your mental health and enable you to peak perform even in stressful environments – like the bustling holiday season.
How do I balance self-care during this busy season?
Balancing self-care during holidays entails prioritizing your personal needs amidst the festive duties. Ensure maintaining your daily routines as much as possible and dedicate time each day for activities that you enjoy or help you relax. Be open about your needs with family and friends. They’ll likely understand and support your aim for balance. Practice saying “no” to obligations that don’t align with your needs or interests. Remember that it’s okay not to participate in every holiday event or activity. Evening practices like yoga, meditation, reading, or even taking a hot bath can also help relax and restore after a busy day, enhancing your mental well-being.
Is it okay to prioritize my well-being during holiday celebrations?
Absolutely. Prioritizing your well-being during holiday celebrations is not only okay, but it’s also necessary. Self-care is fundamental for you to be able to fully engage and enjoy the holiday season. Without it, you risk burning out, which could potentially affect your health and dampen your holiday spirit. It’s important to remember the essence of the saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Taking care of yourself ensures you have the energy and capacity to engage in holiday celebrations with joy and enthusiasm. Each person’s way of celebrating is unique, and it’s perfectly alright to celebrate in a way that prioritizes your physical and emotional needs.
What are some quick self-care techniques for immediate relief from stress?
There are numerous quick self-care techniques that can provide immediate relief from stress. These include:
- Deep breathing exercises: Deep, measured breathing can help calm the nervous system. Try inhaling slowly for a count of four, holding your breath for a count of four, and exhaling for a count of four.
- Progressive muscle relaxation: This involves tensing and then releasing each muscle group in your body. Start with your toes and work your way up to your head.
- Mindful meditation: Even a few minutes of mindful meditation can be beneficial. Focus on your breath, a positive mantra, or visualize a calming location.
- Aromatherapy: Certain essential oils, like lavender and chamomile, are known for their calming benefits.
- Exercise: A brief walk, yoga stretches or other forms of physical exercise can help dissolve stress by boosting endorphin levels.
Remember the key is to find what works best for you, so be willing to experiment with different techniques till you discover the most effective ones.