Let’s get real, the holidays are a very stressful time of year. Besides the normal work, school, health, and relationship stressors we already deal with 12 months out of the year, December adds finals, holiday shopping, family, travel, crazy weather, and mass amounts of food. The things we normally do for ourselves and our health are set aside, though we swear we’ll pick them up again come January 1st. It’s no wonder that people feel increasingly worn out as December wears on. This is where self care should come in. What is self care, you ask? Simply put, it’s taking care of yourself. To delve a little deeper into the term, self care is intentional actions and attitudes that help to build or maintain your well-being and personal health.
Come January 1st, the new year, and New Year’s resolutions, self care is at an all time high. We pledge to go to the gym regularly, to begin a meditation practice, to be easier on ourselves, to eat healthier, to erase what the holidays have done to us. While it’s great that there is a surge of self care practices in the beginning of each new year, we need to be vigilant about taking care of ourselves year round – especially during the holidays.
Here are some self care tips that you can use this season:
Meditate for at least 5 or 10 minutes, if it’s something you are interested in. If meditation isn’t your style, that’s okay. Just breathe. Take some time to take a few deep, slow breaths. Meditation and breathing deeply can help you start your day on the right note, or help calm you down at any point that you just need a break from your day.
Most days, especially in the cold weather, sitting at home with a nice hot cup of cocoa and a good movie sounds like the only decent option. Dragging yourself off the couch or out of bed seems next to impossible. But it is important to be active, even in the winter. Exercise releases endorphins, which can nip winter blues in the bud. And the reason most people pledge to go back to the gym for the new year is because they skipped the gym during all of December. If you stick with your exercise routine, you won’t need to recommit.
3. Get outside!
Yes, it’s cold. But getting fresh air can be crucial to your happiness. Sunlight and the resulting Vitamin D helps combat depression and gives your immune system a boost. Bundle up appropriately, go for a walk, make snow angels, go sledding, or maybe go for a run, if you’re so inclined (there are a lot of studies that show that exercise plus cold is good for you as well). Get outside.
4. Treat yourself and take time for yourself!
The holidays are a time of giving, but there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself. Schedule a massage, buy yourself that sweater you’ve been eyeing, make yourself a nice meal, sleep in. Do something for yourself. It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it is something that you will enjoy. You deserve it!
5. Enjoy the delicious food and don’t beat yourself up about it!
The holidays seem to have become synonymous with luxurious, plentiful meals and flavorful desserts that we only treat ourselves to a couple times a year. It’s fine to take advantage of all of the food around you. Enjoy in moderation, although if you find you’ve eaten a bit more than you would have liked, that’s okay too. Don’t be hard on yourself, just get yourself back on track.
I’m not saying you should spend the entire month of December neglecting your social media sites, otherwise how will your Facebook friends know what you got for Christmas!? However, it can be good for you to take a break. Social media and technology can add additional stress, especially when it helps us procrastinate on Christmas shopping or whatever else we may need to be doing.
7. Learn how to say no!
This can apply to a lot of the holiday stressors. Maybe someone offers you another cookie and you know you’ve already had enough. It’s okay to say no. Maybe you’ve been with your family for 48 hours straight and they still want you to stick around and be social. It’s okay to say no. Don’t agree to everything just to protect someone’s feelings. You have to put yourself first sometimes.
This may seem like a no-brainer, since many of us are now on break from school and work. Sleeping in? What ELSE would I do over winter break? But make sure that you are getting enough sleep. Everything is crazy busy, wrapping presents, shopping, staying up until 4am since you don’t have to get up for that 8am class. Stick with your already formed sleeping habits at least for the most part, otherwise it’ll be harder to acclimate once you have to go back to your routine in January.
You can’t do everything. Decide what you absolutely have to do and what could be ignored for now, so you don’t run yourself ragged.
10. Cherish time with friends!
Our friends are the people who best help us de-stress and let loose. Cherish the time you get to spend with people you actually want to spend time with. And not just because you’re forced to see them because you’re related to them (although if you truly enjoy spending a lot of time with your family, more power to you). If you’re feeling extra stressed, take a break and go hang out with your friends. The stuff you have to do will still be there when you get back.