As the holiday season slowly approaches, that means that the busy schedule of shopping for gifts for our loved ones, hosting celebratory parties for our friends and families, or maybe even attending holiday parties becomes a part of our daily routine. Because this time of year emphasizes the selfless acts of giving gifts and creating an atmosphere where there is warmth and love everywhere, we can sometimes neglect our own self-care; as a result, we begin to experience stress around the most joyous time of year. Hopefully, self-care is being used year round as self-care is essential for not only your mental health, but your physical health as well. Studies have shown that engaging in a daily self-care routine has been clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, reduce stress, improve concentration, minimize frustration and anger, increase happiness, and improve energy (Southern New Hampshire University, 2020). From the physical health perspective, self-care has been clinically proven to reduce heart disease, stroke and cancer. Now that we know just how crucial self-care is for our own well-being, how do we incorporate it not only in our every day routine, but also during the holiday season?
First off, it is important to determine what self-care means to you. Maybe it means that you read your favorite books, or take a relaxing bath with your favorite essential oils and bath essentials, or even do some sort of exercise (i.e., yoga, pilates, weight lifting). Whatever your self-care may be, there is no right or wrong way to do it. Sometimes, the self-care activities we engage in don’t seem to have any benefit anymore; maybe you’ve been doing the same self-care routine for quite some time and have found that they don’t make you as happy as they used to. That is completely okay! That just means it is time to rework your self-care routine and incorporate other activities to help you feel happier.
Here are some suggestions on how to maintain self-care during the holiday season (hint: you can use all of these suggestions year round!!):
Some form of physical activity
Reaching out to your support system (friends, family, therapist)
Using distractions to keep your mind busy (i.e., reading, crafts, cooking, etc)
Regularly schedule time to engage in self-care activities. Try to do your activities at the same time every day to keep up with consistency or even set an alarm to help remind yourself.
Practice gratitude for people and events in your life. You could write in a journal about your gratitude or even let others know how you feel.
Engage in deep breathing or other relaxation exercises. This could look like listening to soothing music, or even engaging in an imagery exercise. You can also include meditation in this.
Tune into the emotions you are feeling. Emotions may be positive, negative, or a combination of the two. It’s important to check in with your feelings and even write in a journal to help cope with your feelings.
If you are experiencing negative emotions, try to understand why you might be feeling that way. For some people, the negative emotions around the holidays might be related to unrealistic expectations or goals that we may set during that time, or by simply feeling overwhelmed by what needs to be done for the holiday season. Readjust your goals so they are specific and attainable.
Monitor your stress levels. Notice the time of day when you get stressed and write it down. Are certain people triggering you? Or are activities triggering to you? Try to have a list of activities that you can engage in to help relax yourself.
The holiday season is a time of joy, magic, and hope. Enjoy the holidays, but don’t forget to block out time to take care of your own needs and emotions. And remember:
“An empty lantern provides no light; self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.”