Practical Ways To Practice Self-Care During The Holidays
Be it financial stress, social pressures, or proximity-to-family based anxiety the holiday season can be pretty tough for some, if not all, of us at times. You might be feeling under pressure to be the perfect host, or maybe you’re feeling lonely or the loss of a loved one; whatever your reasons, self- care is super important at this time of year, more than any other.
I’ve put together some practical ways to take care of yourself while still having fun, and performing any social duties you might have (and not a bubble-bath in sight!).
When the FOMO is real it can be hard to say no, but agreeing to attend every social occasion you’re invited to may leave you without a free night for a week straight, resulting in a serious hangover, exhaustion and in extreme cases completely depressed. Be honest with yourself about how much you can handle without a break, and prioritise the people who build you up and make you happy, rather than those you feel ‘obliged’ to see.
On the nights you do take off, try and have a digital detox at the same time; no computer, phone or TV and instead explore pursuits that leave you feeling nourished, like reading, painting, playing music, writing, cooking, yoga, meditation or exercise.
Boundaries are also important when it comes to those all-too-familiar probing questions from distant aunt Doris who you haven’t seen since Christmas last year. No-one likes to be questioned about their life choices, or have to answer questions about when they’re going to get a job/get promoted/settle down/get married or have kids. Work out a polite and loving, but firm response to questions you’re not willing to answer and don’t be afraid to change the subject or walk away if you’re feeling overwhelmed or triggered.
Break the rules
Christmas & the festive season should be fun; it should be about love, sharing & celebration, so don’t be afraid to embrace that and break the rules! If your idea of fun isn’t standing around a beige buffet making small talk with your colleagues then don’t do it! Allow yourself to let go, indulge in treats and whatever else fills you with joy without feeling guilty. If it’s not hurting anyone else, you do you, and let everyone else get on with what makes them happy too.
This one is hard, but important. If you’re out every night on the fizz and gorging on sweets, roast dinners and mince pies all day, likelihood is that you’re going to be feeling dehydrated, tired and generally low. Try to prepare a healthy breakfast each morning (especially if you’ve been out the night before….try and step away from the bacon sarnie!) or grab a smoothie or fresh juice during the day. Take healthy snacks like fruit, nuts & cucumber/carrot sticks and dip to get your health fix and try and get at least 20 minutes of fresh air and light exercise each day. If you don’t quite hit that, don’t get down on yourself! You’ve got enough to deal with at the moment; so just be gentle, but mindful of how you’re treating your body.
One of the hardest parts of this time of year for most people is the financial strain. It’s not just the gift-buying which puts pressure on the bank balance, but the office lunches, quick festive meet-ups with the gang and ‘christmassy must-do activities’ which can leave us feeling the pinch. Being mindful about what we’re buying, and for who, can really help. If you have a large family, or group of friends, suggest a secret santa with a £10 or £15 limit; most people will be relieved to have some of the cost removed, and it’s fun guessing who your santa is! If you’re creative, why not make, or cook gifts for people, or purchase tickets to a concert, or an activity which you can do together with your loved one, so you’re getting joy out of it too? Remember, most people simply feel joy at being given a thoughtful gift, rather than expensive one, so you don’t need to break the bank!
Meditate & Journal
Let’s face it, there' are usually one or two things we simply have to do at Christmas which we can’t get out of; like spending time with family members you don’t get on with, for example. If spending time with your family makes you anxious, or triggered, try and work through it through meditation & journalling. I love apps like 1GiantMind & Headspace for simple, guided meditations. Just 5-10 minutes a day can give you clarity of thought and help you to stay calm in those stressful moments. Writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal will help you to release tension or pressure which might otherwise boil over into an argument over something seemingly tiny.
Open up & Be Present
If you’re traditionally bit of a ‘grinch’, or if you have painful feelings towards the festive season because of loss or loneliness, try to work on being mindful and taking each day as it comes. Mindfulness is the practise of being present in the moment, and observing the world as it comes to you, rather than getting wrapped up in our thoughts, projections or own interpretations of situations. Rather than allowing yourself to run away with your perceptions that the holidays are going to be awful, see if you can open yourself up and start to notice the good things in each day. Try to notice at least one thing per day which makes you happy; it could be as simple as the feeling of the winter sun on your face as you walk to work, or the smell of coffee as you pass your local cafe, or as big as being grateful for being healthy, warm, clothed & fed. You might find that actually that catch-up with your old school friends isn’t as painful as you expected!
Let Go of Perfection
If you’re hosting this year the pressure to perform can be crippling. You’ll be stressing for weeks about timings, portion sizes, dietary requirements & if it will all fit in the oven. In reality, Christmas is about togetherness, and sharing, so let go of the pressure to perform and do your best. Enlist help from friends & family if you need it, and laugh it off if things go wrong! It will all be forgotten by New Year anyway. Perfection is subjective, so treat yourself with compassion & care!
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