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How to Practice Self-Care During the Holiday Season

By Carley Schweet

In this article:

Believe it or not, after this whirlwind year, the holiday season is somehow already almost here. As we begin to put away the fall decor and pull out our holiday lights, we can’t help but think of all the unknowns ahead of us. The holidays are often a time filled with friends and family, but that might not be the case this particular year, causing the season to feel dramatically different. 

We face unknown travel situations, awkward conversations around masks and social distancing, and potential health risks as we work towards getting ready for the holidays. All of the stressors don’t necessarily mean that this holiday season is a write-off, though, as there’s still plenty of cheer and hope to spread around. If you spend some time preparing for the season and strategize your self-care plan, there’s even a chance you could enjoy the holidays more than in previous years! If we’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s to expect the unexpected and prioritize what’s most important to us.

Ultimately, it’s incredible how a bit of little self-care can positively influence your life. If you take that idea a step further, strategizing how to fit in the care you need despite potential stressors, the results will be even more impactful.

‌‌‌‌Tips for Holiday Self-Care

Before we dive into some helpful tips for practicing self-care when winter rolls around, it’s critical to know that there are three types of self-care: physical, emotional, and spiritual. 

Having a healthy combination of these self-care types in your practice helps create a well-rounded and holistic method that will serve you more deeply than focusing on surface-level self-care practices. With a holistic self-care approach, you’ll also feel more grounded as you navigate the busyness of the season.

It’s also important to keep in mind that self-care can sometimes feel overwhelming no matter how well-versed you are. If these feelings of being overwhelmed pop up, keep in mind what you hope to achieve by practicing self-care during this busy time. Remember, the more you prioritize caring for yourself, the more present you’ll be for those you love most. Isn’t that what the holiday season is all about?

Check out the below tips to create a holistic self-care plan this holiday season.

‌‌‌‌1. Get Clear and Set Your Intentions

When’s the last time you stopped and thought about what you want your holiday season to look and feel like? Whether it’s the amount of travel you do, who you spend the holidays with, or how much you spend on gifts, it’s easy to fall into default mode when it comes to the holidays, opting for the same routine with no regard to how these traditions make you feel.

Without a vision or a plan, it can be easy to say “yes” to every invitation or request that comes your way. When you take some time to envision how you’ll spend this season, you’re better able to plan and make that a reality. It’s never too early (or too late!) to begin mapping out each holiday, including who you will see, what you will bring, and, most importantly, what you and your family are most comfortable doing.

Setting an intention for your holiday season will help you better plan, but hopefully, it will be more present and engaged when you show up. There’s a difference between showing up to something out of obligation and showing up because you genuinely want to be there.

The practice of setting intentions on how you desire this season to look is an emotional form of self-care. When you acknowledge what’s on your heart and mind and make decisions from that place, you care for your emotional needs. By honoring those emotions, you will find yourself feeling more peaceful and less stressed. 

‌‌‌‌2. Work on Setting Healthy Boundaries

As mentioned above, setting boundaries and saying “no” is a form of emotional self-careand a necessary type of self-care to practice. Practicing setting healthy boundaries is essential year-round, but it’s especially critical during the busy holiday season. When you work to set boundaries, you’re creating limits on your availability for others’ requests. In turn, you will create more time and energy for yourself to dedicate to who and what you love. Doesn’t that sound so lovely?

Boundaries aren’t only helpful for turning down invitations and requests from others, though. They’re also a helpful tool to protect your energy and care for your emotions. Learning how to say no during the holiday season can be extremely helpful and supportive of your physical and mental health. 

Check out the below situations when choosing "No" instead of" Yes" can be helpful:

  • When a relative asks a question you’re not comfortable answering
  • When a last-minute (not urgent) problem pops up at work 
  • When offered a specific food that triggers allergies or reactions
  • When feeling obligated to spend money that you don’t have on a gift or plane ticket
  • When someone offers you a cocktail, but you feel better without it
  • When you’re not comfortable in a social situation due to potential health risks

When you say no, you are making an intentional choice to help shape your holiday season experience closer to what you have in mind. That’s why it’s important to not only get clear on your intentions this holiday season but also to learn how to say no and help make that vision a reality. Often, especially during the holidays, it can feel challenging to say no and set boundaries with those we love. So, it’s common to take on too much and feel burned out once the new year rolls around.

‌‌‌‌3. Make Physical Self-Care a Priority

Remember that physical self-care is anything that supports or improves the state of your body. Physical self-care includes (but is not limited to) the food you eat, how well you sleep at night, the amount of water you drink, how you get ready for and end your day, and how you choose to move your body.

While the holidays can often become an excuse to over-indulge in all things festivecakes, pies, cocktails, comfort food—it’s crucial to maintain a sense of balance throughout the holiday season. This mindset could look like taking an approach that permits you to enjoy the things you love most and nourish your body with whole foods and move it daily. 

When you approach eating and exercise with an all-or-nothing approach, it can feel restrictive and unrealistic. Do your best to find a happy medium - enjoy what you love with a sense of awareness, gratitude, and pleasure but don’t make the cake the only thing on your dinner plate.

Food and drink aside, physical self-care is fundamental during the holiday season, especially if you’re traveling long distances or have a jam-packed season.

Here are some other helpful tips to keep in mind:

‌‌‌‌4. Have a Plan For When Things Go Sideways

It wouldn’t be the holidays if something didn’t go wrong. Between missed flights, unpredictable weather, and unprecedented sickness, it’s critical to have a plan for when things go off-plan. This plan could simply be to take a few deep breaths and recite a supportive mantra, or it could be to take a step back and refocus on your intentions for the season.

Above all, no matter what plan you develop, having acceptance around unpredictability is essential during the holiday season. It also happens to be a powerful emotional self-care practice too!

‌‌‌‌Final Thoughts on Self-Care During the Holidays

No matter how you choose to celebrate your holidays this season, keep in mind that self-care is an essential part of creating the holiday season you desire. It’s not selfish to care for yourself; in fact, it’s critical, especially during the hectic nature of the winter months. 

As you move throughout the holidays, it’s essential to remember that your self-care practice doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated. Instead, your method can contain mini-moments that help promote the wellbeing of your physical, emotional, and spiritual self. As mentioned above, it’s crucial to clarify your intentions for the holiday season and begin to craft your self-care plan around how you envision yourself spending the rest of your year. Once you’ve created that vision, flex your boundary muscles to protect your time and energy, and then layer in the small self-care practices as needed. With time and steady practice, self-care can help you create more moments of calm and, ultimately, a self-care season that feels genuinely joyful.

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