How to Easily Practice Self-Care During the Holidays

Recently at A Life Designed, we’ve shared ideas for how to celebrate the holidays like a boss, how to eliminate stress so we can really enjoy this time of year, and how to simplify gift giving to free up time and money.

This week we’re going to explore the idea of self-care, and how to practice it during the holidays to reduce stress and feel more calm.

Let’s face it. The holidays can be a difficult time for self-care because we do more than usual. We shop, run errands, attend parties, bake cookies, wrap gifts, and travel. We attend concerts, church activities, and plays. As holiday activities fill up our time, we tend to put taking care of ourselves on the back burner, believing that we’ll be fine and we should just plug through.

But we don’t feel fine for long.

We overdo it, and then wonder why we feel tired and drained. Sometimes we even get sick.

This used to happen to me…every…year. From Thanksgiving through Christmas day, I would run around doing everything I possibly could, only to get sick right before Christmas day. For years, I wondered why this happened and passed it off as one of the perils of being an elementary teacher (sick kids and germs everywhere!).

But now I wonder if it was more than that. The last few years I’ve scaled back around the holidays. I’ve traded chaos for calm, and I’ve realized that I used to put my own needs last on the list, which made me feel run down. The worst part about it was that I didn’t even realize I was doing this to myself.

Practicing self-care is the key to enjoying the holidays in good health, and it’s a way to care for our mental and physical well-being. Here are some easy self-care ideas to consider:

  • Drink water — when our schedules are busy, we sometimes forget to do obvious things like drinking enough water. If you’re feeling sluggish, it could be because you’re not hydrated. Make sure you regularly drink enough water, especially when the weather is dry and cold.
  • Exercise — whatever you normally do, keep doing it! Whether it’s a walk outside, yoga, or an intense workout, keep up with your routine during the holidays so your body stays strong and your mind stays clear. And don’t forget the stress relief that exercise provides. It’s one of the best ways I know to beat stress!
  • Sleep — this one seems like a no brainer, but how many of us skimp on sleep just to fit in a few more things in the evenings? Make sure you get a little more sleep than you normally do so that your body has a chance to recover from the extra effort you’re putting in.
  • Eat well — it’s easy to succumb to eating more sugar and carbs with all the tasty treats available around the holidays. Strategically pick a few occasions where you go off your normal healthy eating plan if you’re ok with that (like the delicious spread at the annual party or Christmas Eve dinner at mom’s house) and eat healthy the rest of the month. This will prevent you from waking up in January and wondering how those extra 10 pounds appeared!
  • Laugh — don’t underestimate the benefits of a good laugh. Keep things light in your heart as much as you can, and find time for some humor. I personally enjoy watching cheesy Hallmark movies in the evenings, with their predictable plots and happy endings. It reminds me not to take things so seriously and gives my brain a rest.
  • Recognize the negatives — let’s face it, the holidays can be stressful. Some of us have conflict within our families. Or we have experienced the loss of someone that’s left an ache that can’t be filled. We have emotional baggage from previous holidays or miss what once was. Remember that it’s ok to acknowledge that life is imperfect. We don’t have to feel happy about everything during this time of year. Be gentle with yourself. Don’t judge yourself for having sad or anxious feelings. Recognize that they’re there, rather than trying to pretend the emotions don’t exist.
  • Stop comparing — do the holidays your way and stop comparing yourself to everyone else. The elaborate table setting you see on TV? That took a dozen professionals to create. The crafty neighbor down the street with her homemade gifts? She has been working on them since Spring! Let others do their thing, and you do yours.
  • Take a time out — do at least one thing each day to unplug and get away from the holiday preparations. Have a quiet cup of tea and enjoy it without multi-tasking. Escape for a few minutes to read a good book. Listen to some holiday music curled up on the couch. Most of all, make sure you’re spending time with those you love each day. These little moments will help you feel more rested and keep your mind calm.

What will you do to foster your own self-care? Pick one thing from the list or add in your own ideas. Take 10 minutes out of your schedule and care for yourself every day.

If you have some ideas about how to incorporate self-care into your routine around the holidays, please share in the comments below!

Now, excuse me while I head out for a run. It’s a beautiful day here in Maryland, and I know I’ll feel better if I get outside for a while. That’s my self-care practice for today. See you next time!

Jennifer is a writer and teacher. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Randy, their puppy, George Michael, and two college-age kids who come and go. She can be found on Twitter at @ALifeDesigned8 and Instagram at alifedesigned8.