Are you ready for the holidays? Getting together with friends, family and coworkers, cooking and baking, parties, shopping and wrapping, school events, work events….whew! It’s enough to make you feel like you need an extra month to fit it all in.
This festive time of giving, whether it’s in the sharing of gifts, time, energy or experiences, can be exhausting and stressful if you don’t take care of yourself first. It is easy to get run down really fast this time of year which makes you more susceptible to getting sick. Plus, it’ll zap your good cheer and merriment in a blink of a twinkling Christmas light.
The key to experiencing a joyful, enjoyable, stress-free holiday season starts with you taking care of yourself. I encourage you to consider your self-care practices as a “holiday non-negotiable.” Consistent self-care practices are most important to maintain during the holidays because we feel pulled in so many different directions at once.
Here are 12 key ways for you to feel your best during the holidays. See which ones resonate with you and commit to doing a few each day in a mindful way. Small steps lead to big change and that includes your self-care practices during the holidays. Keep your cup full so you have the capacity to give to others in a genuine, authentic way.
If you have comforting daily self-care practices already in place, cheers! Be mindful to stick with them. It will keep your body and mind well regulated. Examples include reading for 30 minutes before bed, taking a hot bath, waking up early to journal, going to the gym for your favorite cardio workout, playing with your children, watching a weekly show to unwind. Stick with what works for you.
With more demands on your time, stick to your boundaries without the guilt. You only have so many hours in a day and it’s really important this time of year to only commit to those activities that really light you up. Have your “yes” be one you’re genuinely excited about. A simple “Thank you, but I am not able to attend” is perfectly sufficient. Or a “That sounds lovely, let me know how it goes as I will not be there” works too. Honoring how you want to spend your time is nothing to feel guilty about. Period.
If you’re having a day (or days) where you feel stressed and frazzling thoughts creep in, ask for help. Assign jobs (age appropriate) to your kids, call a friend to tag-team errands, swap babysitting days with a mom from school, book TaskRabbit, a cleaning service, or use a meal delivery service for a week. Outsource where you can to ease the overwhelm.
When tunnel vision sets in with demands, call a time out. Arrange to meet a friend for coffee, or a walk. Call to a long-distance friend to check-in and chat. It can be very centering to connect with a supportive friend. You’re not alone and most times they are experiencing similar things and it feels great to commiserate, share and brainstorm ways to help one another.
It’s easy to get carried away with buying gifts for friends, family, teachers, coworkers, people in your life you care about. Setting a budget before hitting the online sales and mall can really help keep you within your predetermined budget. Start with the total amount you’re comfortable with spending, make a list of all those you plan to buy for, then jot down gift ideas for each that allow you to stay within your budget. The last step is the buying and wrapping. And, the best part, giving!
As time gets crunched and the days get crossed off the calendar, the scheduled workout or yoga class often gets cancelled. Yet, staying on track with your workouts gives you the opportunity to boost your feel good brain chemicals (serotonin and endorphins) which do wonders for your sleep, keeping stress in check and feeling empowered. There are many other reasons to keep moving during the holidays.
Meditation and breathwork are such powerful practices especially this time of the year. Giving yourself time alone to practice stillness and awareness of thought calms not only your mind but also your nervous system which has a residual calming effect. Bringing awareness to your breath also keeps the nervous system in a calm, regulated state (not in the stress response of fight/flight/freeze- which keeps us stressed out). The Importance of Mindfulness goes deeper into the benefits of meditation.
The holidays can bring up a lot of emotions and it’s helpful to journal and reflect on what you’re experiencing. At times we can feel flooded with gratitude and it’s powerful to write and reflect on the people, places and experiences that bring us joy. If emotions of sadness, regret or loneliness are present it’s also helpful to journal about those as well. Journaling is a powerful way to express yourself in a private and safe space. It’s a cathartic practice and can be very healing when practiced regularly.
Holiday traditions are wonderful and can keep you connected to the ones you love in very special ways. This holiday consider your traditions and if you’re still comforted and nurtured by them. At times traditions can feel like obligations which can leave you feeling depleted. It’s okay to let go of the ones that no longer serve you or how you want to spend your holidays. And, it is okay to start new traditions. Take time to reevaluate and let go of perfection that can be wrapped up with trying to make everyone happy.
Studies show spending time in nature reduces anxiety, depression, and stress while simultaneously increasing feelings of calm, peace and stillness. It’s a win-win! Feeling the sun on your skin gives your body a healthy dose Vitamin D and invigorates to your mind, body and soul. Nature grounds us and sunshine expands us.
As your schedule gets tighter with more demands from the holidays, sleep is one of the first things to go. Sticking to a regular sleep/wake cycle will help your mind and body best regulate the stressors of the day, and keep systemic inflammation in check. Getting a consistent 7-8 hours of sleep each night is ideal for most people. Here are more tips on how to make sleep a priority.
Brainstorm ideas for activities that don’t involve a screen to encourage connection without distraction. Pull out a board game, play a game of charades, have a taste test of a favorite food, plan an excursion, decorate Christmas cookies, listen to music and dance around! This is a great time to get creative.
Parties and get togethers are so fun this time of year and enjoying your favorite alcoholic beverage(s) and holiday treat(s) won’t derail your health and wellness goals as long as you keep it in moderation and uphold your other healthy habits. Be mindful of what drink and treat you say yes to so that you fully enjoy it without the guilt. Cheers!
Consider which of these self-care tips would best serve you this holiday season. Taking care of yourself is an act of self-love. You deserve to feel your best.
As an integrative health coach, I help busy women like you move beyond limiting beliefs, self-sabotaging behaviors and bad habits to create a healthy, balanced, aligned life that allows you to show up each day feeling your best!
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