Lack of Self Care During the Holiday Season & The Toll It Takes
Have you ever felt run down during the holidays or gotten sick right at Christmas? If so, you have experienced the consequences of holiday stress.
Sometimes we may blame those feelings or getting sick on being inside more or on the cold weather.
However, think about it. During November and December, we are:
- eating more than normal (and not necessarily healthy options)
- socializing more
- trying to get our enormous to-do lists knocked out
- spending more money (causing stress all on its own)
- sleeping less
Searching for a way to better care of yourself during the holidays? One of the first things to be neglected at this festive yet stressful time of year is self-care.
Practicing self-care during the holidays takes a little discipline but is well worth the effort.
We get so busy planning, shopping, coordinating, cooking, and celebrating that we tend to push aside our calming and stress-relieving rituals.
That's when holiday fun becomes holiday stress and headaches. We need a break from the stress!
Maybe we skip the gym to bake and eat cookies. Or perhaps we opt out of yoga class and stay up late to catch up with chores that we missed while out shopping or merrymaking.
Instead of taking it easy after a long day, we just pile more tasks on our to-do list. Holiday time is surely delightful, but the amount of added anxiety can at times, become frightful. Sound familiar?
It's the old proverbial cup: we can't expect to take care of others' needs if the cup of our own replenishment has run dry. This is where making time for self-care becomes critical to our enjoyment of the holidays.
What is self care?
Self care encompasses any activity that you do to shut off your mind, relax, and relieve stress.
Tension accumulates in our muscles throughout the busy day. We need to get rid of that stress – either through exercise or through mindful (or mindless?) relaxation. This is where self care comes in.
Self care helps us turn our minds off – which we need to do in order to be healthy!
While we have modern technology to thank for keeping our minds constantly active, engaged and on high alert, it's still up to us to find ways to practice self care.
Exercise as self care
Exercise is one of the best stress-relieving forms of self-care.
Here's an interesting (random) fact: weight-bearing exercise, like jogging, helps the body hold onto calcium. Not only does a self-care ritual like running strengthen your muscles and cardio-vascular system, but it's also good for your bones!
You don't have to wait until New Years' resolutions kick in to start up a gym membership!
For busy moms who need a break from the kids and some ‘me time', the gym can be an ideal way to offload stress from your busy holiday routine. Even working out 2-3 days a week can mean a real difference in your outlook and bring stress levels way down.
Then again, what if the gym just isn't your thing? Maybe you prefer to have peace and quiet during exercise.
If that sounds like you, slip in a half-hour of jogging outdoors. Work your core muscles using the exercise ball or get your heart rate up with a fitness hula hoop. Do it on your own time, in your own space.
At-home workouts can greatly relieve stress, and you could also invest in an exercise bike, elliptical machine or even a treadmill if you've got the space.
Yoga for self-care
Yoga is a major stress reliever. If you've never done yoga before, try using YouTube and following along with a video or two to get a sample of what's involved and how great you'll feel when you're finished.
Additional Ideas for Practicing Self Care During the Holidays
Self-care does not have to mean exercise, though certainly in many cases exercise helps us look and feel better.
In some cases, self-care simply means reducing stress by indulging in pastimes that relax us and provide enjoyment.
Do crafts to relieve stress
Crafting is also a form of self-care.
Studies confirm that knitting, crocheting and other types of handicrafts have a calming effect on the human brain. I love that news because I absolutely love to sit and watch a show while I'm doing a cross stitch or needlepoint project.
It is possible that the repetition involved with doing such work relieves the mind of obsessive thoughts, as does keeping the hands busy.
Respect Your Budget
Ever been down to your last $100 in your checking account? I have, and it was stressful. So during the season where people tend to overspend and blow their budgets, practice self-care by sticking to your budget. It's worth it – I promise.
Plus, use apps to help you save on ALL your shopping! A few minutes here and there will save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a year! We all have shopping to do. Save with Ebates, Ibotta, PLUS apps for your favorite stores.
You can use some in conjunction with each other to save multiple times on the same purchase!
Do Some Planning
This may sound contrary to self care.
However, by finding some time to do some meal planning, budget planning, gift planning, etc you will save yourself the stress and anxiety of rushing around trying to get it all done on the fly (and going over budget which is definitely not self care)
Set a Morning Routine
Consider starting each day by making just a little time for yourself.
By doing that, you can get centered and relaxed so you can go through your day with more intention and the ability to handle those twists and turns that life inevitably sends our way.
Your morning routine might only be 5 minutes long, but even that will pay off in spades.
Use the time to sit quietly with a cup of coffee or tea, meditate, journal, pray, walk, make your list for the day, or any other activities that feed your mind, heart, body, and soul.
Enjoy Holiday Treats, but Don't Forget to Eat Healthy Foods
Unhealthy food causes inflammation, weight gain and possibly blood sugar spikes and dips (which can cause moodiness).
I don't know about you, but when I feel this way, I most certainly do not feel my best. And not feeling my best adds to my feelings of stress.
Instead of riding this unhealthy diet roller coaster, try to stick to your healthy habits while including a bit of indulging during the holiday season.
Keep Clutter To a Minimum
If you buy a new decoration, give away an old decoration that you don't care for anymore. Keep the mail sorted. Get rid of anything you don't want or need.
Clutter contributes to feelings of stress. Practice self care during the holidays this year by keeping the house a little more organized. This will help you feel more calm and less stressed.
In our family, we have a tradition where I always sit down with my boys around this time of year and clean out all their toys. Together, we go through the toy box and their rooms and make piles: keep, give away, & throw away.
Since we know more stuff will be coming into the house at the holidays (with birthdays following shortly after), we take this time to clean out what we don't play with anymore or is broken to make room for new items.
This tradition helps us keep our clutter down. Additionally, we are able to give items we don't use anymore to friends and family or charity – which feels good.
The holiday season is when companies, friends, and family alike tend to schedule events. Don't feel the need to attend every single gathering. Say “no” to any unnecessary activities that don't make you jump for joy.
Read a Book
I think Kindles and other devices are great, but there's just nothing like turning the pages of a book.
I can find myself relaxing and letting my worries slip away when I get in my bed with a good book and spend some time reading (and maybe napping).
It's also nice to sit by a fire and sip on some hot tea or hot chocolate while you enjoy your book 🙂
Holding on to anger and resentment only hurts you.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, “forgive” means ‘to no longer feel angry about or wish to punish'.
I think it's powerful to know that “to forgive” doesn't mean that what someone else did was ok or that you have to forget what happened.
Instead, let go of the resentments and anger that you are holding on to. Enjoy that sudden feeling of lightness (and lack of stress) that you will experience when you forgive!
Essential oils relieve stress naturally
Essential oils provide a nice, pleasantly-scented way to wind down. They also make perfect holiday gifts for people on your list who may be seeking relief from stress in their lives.
Did you know that some essential oils have naturally occurring compounds that act as a mild sedative and can relieve stress?
Here are some examples:
- Lemon oil clears the mind and relieves anxiety.
- Cinnamon oil helps us to feel calm and emotionally grounded (and it helps boost the immune system).
- Lavender oil promotes relaxation and restful sleep.
- Chamomile oil has the same, sedative effect when you breathe it in as it does if you sipped a cup of chamomile tea.
At the end of a busy day, you may find relief after diffusing some essential oils while reading, sipping a cup of hot tea, knitting or enjoying your favorite television show.
Take a long bath
Add some relaxing essential oils, bubbles, a bath bomb, or sea salts to your bath. Turn on some soft, relaxing music. Perhaps grab a favorite book. Recline and enjoy the bliss.
Whether you take a 10-minute bath or a 45-minute bath, a soothing bath is a wonderful way to practice self care.
Laughter does absolute wonders for the soul and your mood! Watch a movie that makes you belly laugh, hang out with the funniest person you know, or watch a favorite comedian and feel your mood soar.
According to Amy Morin on Psychology Today, gratitude improves psychological health. Further, gratitude reduces a variety of toxic emotions, including resentment, frustration, and regret.
Essentially, gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression.
Create a gratitude list where you list all the things you can think of that you are grateful for. You can even try doing an A to Z gratitude list. That's where you list at least one thing you feel grateful for, for each letter of the alphabet.
Give to Others
This can be done in a hundred different ways. There are so many opportunities to give and so many people and organizations in need.
Pick something close to your heart and give the way you want to give. Don't worry about giving the way others think you should give.
It doesn't even need to be financial giving. While donating money to people or causes can be beneficial, volunteering your time can be a wonderful self care.
According to Dr. Frank Lipman at BeWell, volunteering your time in service to others contributes to better physical health, better sleep, reduced stress and greater feelings of happiness and well-being.
Add soft light
I'm thinking candles, soft decorations (i.e., garland with lights), anything that brightens up the dark nights but in a soothing and peaceful way.
Keep the lighting soft so it lets your brain relax.
With the holiday season being notoriously busy and stressful, it's essential to make an extra effort to practice self care.
The more we take of ourselves, the more energy we'll have to do things we truly love and want to do!
Tell us in the comments below: What is your favorite way to practice self care during the holidays (or any time)?