The holidays are approaching, and with them comes the stressors we all know and love: family, friends, presents and travel. And with those stressors comes the need for self-care.
But what does “self-care” really mean?
While it’s often thought of as just a way to relax and unwind after a long day, self-care can be much more than that—it can and should be an essential part of staying healthy throughout the year.
Self-care is a way to take care of your body, mind and spirit. It includes getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising regularly, spending time in nature or connecting with friends and family. You may also find that self-care helps you feel more relaxed when you’re stressed or anxious. Some people find it helpful to create self-care rituals for themselves at certain times during the day.
Now is the time to start thinking about how you can make this season a little bit easier on yourself. If you want to make it through the holiday lead-up without losing your mind (and possibly your sanity), you need a self-care plan. A self-care plan is exactly what it sounds like: a plan for taking care of yourself during the holiday season. So, what are some simple strategies that can help you stay positive and healthy?
Family gatherings, parties, and gift-giving make the holiday season so special, but they also cause stress. This year, instead of panicking about everything you need to get done by Christmas Eve, tackle tasks ahead of time. Plan when you’re going to buy gifts and whether they’ll be mailed or picked up at the retailer. Ask someone else to pick up groceries for dinners so that all you have left is decorating. You don’t want to focus on making these decisions just before Christmas—they usually cause more stress than they’re worth!
Also, make sure that you’re not taking on too much during this time of year. You don’t want to get sick from stress or exhaustion—it’s not worth it!
Start planning now, and you’ll be able to enjoy the holidays more than ever before. See below for some tips to help you stay on top of your game even when things get hectic during the busy holiday season.
Tips for Creating a Self-Care Plan
The first step in creating a self-care plan is to check in with yourself. It’s important to identify your needs and to be aware of what may be causing stress in your life. Think about how you typically feel during this time of the year. Contrary to popular belief, everyone does not love the holidays. A 2021 survey showed that three in five Americans feel their mental health is negatively impacted by the holidays.
You can’t go back in time, but you can prepare for the weeks ahead. Make a list of everything you must do, then prioritize it by when each task needs to be completed. Planning really can help you enjoy the season. You’ll spend less time stressing about what to do with your family, how to manage your money, and how much food to buy for Christmas dinner.
Ask for help.
If you have friends or family members willing to lend a hand with something on your list (even if it’s just an hour or two), there are plenty of ways they could contribute: dog walking, grocery shopping, hanging Christmas lights—the possibilities are endless! If no one is available, consider hiring someone. Ask someone else to pick-up last-minute items for dinners so that all you have left is to plan your attire. You don’t want to focus on making these decisions just before Christmas.
Of course, we should spread the holiday cheer and help each other, but saying no doesn’t make you the grinch. One of the easiest ways to eliminate holiday stress is to not take on extra tasks. This applies to work projects, volunteer organizations, hosting holiday parties and PTO committees. Don’t be afraid to say no.
Holidays are often stressful because we anticipate family and friends asking the same intrusive questions. This year, have your responses ready and let them know that it makes you uncomfortable. Don’t forget to set boundaries for yourself. If you need space, be honest about it. These past two years have been tough for everyone.
6 Types of Self-Care for the Holidays
Self-care is a practice that can help you sustain your health and happiness when life gets busy. According to a new poll by the American Psychiatric Association, Americans are five times more likely to say their level of stress increases rather than decreases during the holidays.
While it’s important to practice self-care all year long, it’s especially helpful during the holidays because everyone around us seems to be doing everything they can to make themselves happy—and we often struggle with balancing our own needs with those around us.
For self-care to work well for you, it’s important to develop a personal plan that will fit into your daily routine and last throughout the season. You may want to create a list of activities or items that make you feel calm or relaxed, such as reading a book or going for a walk outside without any distractions; listening to music; spending time alone; or practicing mindfulness exercises like focusing on boxed breathing.
Physical self-care is so much more than physical exercise. It involves taking care of your body. Acknowledge the physical signs of stress. Are you getting enough sleep? Is your diet healthy and balanced? Are there any medical issues that need attention? Are you taking your vitamins? Have you received a flu shot? As the holiday season approaches, this can look different for everyone. These are things that can have a huge impact on how well we deal with stressful situations, so pay attention to them now.
- Get active
The weather is cooler, which makes it more inviting to take a stroll in the neighborhood or a jog. You can also check out a new fitness class. Exercise releases endorphins, which make you feel happy, and it also gets your blood flowing to help you clear your head and focus on what matters most.
- Pamper yourself
Did you know that spending time at the spa is considered physical self-care? You can also take a relaxing bath or shower at home or at a hotel with some nice aromatherapy products. Consider purchasing a beauty or skincare advent calendar to treat yourself a bit.
- Holiday cooking
Baking holiday cookies or preparing your favorite dish is a great way to clear your mind, focus on a singular task and get some self-care in during the holidays.
Mental self-care involves activities that help stimulate your mind and reduce your stress levels. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of the holiday season adding to the stressors in your life right now, it’s probably time for some mental self-care.
- Practice mindfulness
Take some time to prepare for the season by focusing on yourself and being intentional about what the holiday really means to you. Don’t lose sight of that when you get overwhelmed. Find activities that stimulate your mind. Get creative when it comes to choosing décor and gifts.
- Limit distractions
Turn off your phone notifications. The holiday season brings more emails and group text messages. Silence your phone apps to limit distractions. Take some time to unsubscribe from unnecessary emails. Block contacts that may upset you during this
time of the year.
Emotional self-care refers to the ways we care for ourselves emotionally. This time of the year triggers seasonal depression for some. Each year, about five percent of the U.S. population experiences seasonal depression. Four out of five people who have seasonal depression are women. Mental health plays a huge role in self-care.
- Check in with a therapist
It may be helpful to reach out to a therapist to discuss ways for coping with stress, grief, and anxiety for the holidays. This time of the year can be triggering and reminds us that our loved ones are no longer with us. Your doctor may also prescribe antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications or sleep aids.
- Send holiday cards
Stop by a local card shop and pick up greeting cards or stationary. Sending holiday cards or handwritten notes to friends and family allows you to feel connected during this stressful time.
- Watch holiday movies
You know the holiday season has arrived when your favorite movie is back in rotation. Take some time to watch it and share a few laughs.
Practical Self-Care involves doing things to alleviate those tasks that tend to cause stress around the holidays. It also means preparing and planning for the season.
- Practice healthy spending
It’s easy to overspend on the holidays. You want to give your friends and family the best gifts possible, but if you don’t budget and plan, that might not be an option. Don’t worry! There are ways to make sure you can still enjoy the season without sinking into debt. If you give yourself plenty of time to find a gift, you can give something truly unique and not too expensive.
- Holiday gift list
We all know holiday shopping can be stressful. Be sure to plan ahead by creating a gift list so that there are no surprises. Start early and shop online to avoid the crowds.
It sounds simple, but it works. Lists are seriously underrated and crossing items off a to-do list is a fantastic feeling.
- Holiday meal planning
Take the stress out of the holidays with a plan for your meals. Hire a chef or have Thanksgiving dinner catered. It’s ok to ask for help!
Social self-care is the act of choosing how you will interact with the people around you. Nurturing healthy friendships and relationships is important during the holiday season. But what does that mean? It means keeping in touch with friends and family, spending time with people who are important to you, taking a break from social media, and avoiding negative people and situations.
- Gift exchange
Participating in a gift exchange with friends, family or coworkers is a great way to practice social self-care. Be sure to not let this activity create stress! It should be fun.
- Holiday tea or brunch
Attending a festive brunch or tea during the holiday season checks all the boxes. The food, drinks and conversation are sure to make your spirits bright.
- Holiday parties
The invitations in the mailbox are a sign that holiday season has officially started. It’s time to pull out the sequins and cocktail dresses. If you do have time to attend social events, make sure that you’re taking care of yourself before, during and after. You don’t want to end up feeling tired or run down. It’s also important to be selective about social events.
- Don’t overbook yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, politely decline invitations.
- Don’t overcommit. Social events can be a great way to relax, but they can also make you feel exhausted if you commit too much time or energy.
- Don’t feel guilty about saying no. It’s okay not to attend every single holiday event that comes your way—you’ll still have plenty of time with friends and family members during this busy season.
Spiritual self-care is a type of self-care that connects you to your higher self so that you have a sense of inner peace. Holiday stress can cause you to feel less grounded. Think of it as soul care. Taking time to focus on what matters most in life can help bring some sense back into things when everything feels crazy and hectic.
- Take a moment to breathe
Breathing is the first step toward relaxation. Find some quiet time each day and focus on slowing down your breath as you inhale and exhale through your nose. When you start to feel overwhelmed with responsibilities, stop and breathe.
- Try meditation
Meditation can help you reduce stress by giving your mind a break from the chaos of everyday life. Book an in-person session or listen to a guided meditation online. Take as little as five minutes before you start your daily tasks or before bedtime to focus on your thoughts. Meditation can help with anxiety and promote better sleep.
- Practice gratitude
The holiday season is a time of reflection, and a gratitude practice allows us to focus on what we do have instead of what we lack. Spiritual self-care can include random acts of kindness, volunteering your time, donating to a nonprofit or supporting a cause.
In the end, the holidays are about spending time with family and friends. The season is a great time of year, but it can also be very overwhelming. It’s important to take care of yourself during this time to make sure that you’re able to enjoy all that comes with it and not burn out. You should look forward to the holidays, not dread them. Self-care is an important part of staying healthy and happy, so have your holiday plan ready. Be sure to choose activities that you can commit to.
While we hope that you’re able to use these strategies to stay positive and healthy throughout the holiday season, if you find yourself needing more help than just these tips provide, please reach out to someone you trust—whether it’s your friends, family members or therapists, who are often very experienced in helping people cope with stressful situations.