We’re entering the six most frenzied weeks of the year. Mid-November to the end of December can feel like a tsunami of grocery shopping and food preparation, gift shopping, house decorating, wrapping presents…
But can I encourage you to place just one more item on your to-do list?
I know; in “the hap-happiest season of all,” it’s easy to lose yourself in catering to others, but you cannot pour from an empty cup. Especially during the holidays.
Making time for self-care during the holidays is a wise investment for which your loved ones will thank you. Here’s how to incorporate that vital self-care component this holiday season.
Choose your food battles wisely
Specific holiday foods are going to knock on the door of your senses and demand entrance. Yikes! What do you do? Let them all the way in? Well, what if you choose not to deprive yourself… all the while making healthy choices about what you eat? Christmas cake? Yes, in moderation. Christmas drinks? Yep, with clear-cut limits.
If you make allowance for holiday specialties, make sure to also allow for “regular” food. So yes, (healthy) pumpkin pie and (healthy) collard greens can both be acceptable choices. If you’re going to someone’s home for dinner, be the one to bring a healthy dish or appetizer, like a veggie tray. And don’t forget that soups and stews are in at this time of year. Indulge in them heartily, and keep processed and sugary foods to a minimum.
If your digestion takes a hit, try some apple cider vinegar (ACV) in water, or better yet, preempt potential problems by taking a digestive enzyme and probiotics. Keep your cravings calm with L-glutamine, which also helps cut sugar cravings, stabilize your blood sugar, and heal the lining of your gut.
Set aside adequate time to rest
Which activities dominate late November and December? More partying, more spending, more eating, more staying up late, and perhaps more traveling. The first things to fall to the wayside are probably rest and sleep. Maintain your normal sleep routine as much as you can, and if you can’t, make time for naps or down time. If your exercise routine is normally intense, you might be better served by a lighter workout, such as walking outside and getting some Vitamin D directly from the sun. And if you’re really pressed for time, a 10-minute meditation, or even one full minute of deep, cleansing breaths, will help relax your body–and your mind!
It’s important to feed your soul as well as your body at this time of year. Your thoughts, feelings, expectations, and interactions will most likely be heightened. For those still processing any form of loss, it can be an even tougher time. It’s okay to bow out early from animated family chat and go listen to some music, sit by the fireside or outside (if it’s warm enough), get some extra sleep, or maybe just get quiet and read a book.
If you feel unduly stressed, you can supplement with ashwagandha, lemon balm, chamomile, or valerian root. And if sleep is elusive, some options are melatonin, magnesium, GABA, and L-theanine.
Front-load to lessen the stress
If you can plan and execute the vast majority of your holiday preparations in advance, it leaves the door open for a more enjoyable season and less frazzled, frenetic activity when the holidays arrive.
Don’t overextend yourself. Plan out what you need to get done, and then choose which activities you can delegate to a family member or friend, which ones you can delay, and which you can drop. Don’t get caught in the hustle and bustle of the season; it’s a trap!
Set specific dates by which you can complete holiday tasks, such as purchasing gifts or going grocery shopping. I used to start gift shopping in July-August, so I never ended up in the malls on Black Friday because the vast majority of my shopping was already done. But even if you do want to shop in a brick and mortar store, look for the days and times when these places are less congested, like weekday mornings. Or, shop online! But please, keep to a budget so that you can have a pleasant January with no “spenders remorse.”
The key here is to bring a sense of calm to a time of year that can potentially be chaotic. Ask for help early, establish realistic expectations of the season, and get much of the grunt work done in advance.
Apply the “what if?”rule
Here, I’m using “what if?” as a positive prompt to take an action that will foster self-care. “What if I don’t follow the traditional way of doing Christmas?” “What if I opt out of attending the office party?” “What if I don’t buy material gifts but gift people with experiences instead?”
Consider the possibilities that a well executed “what if” could open up if you’re serious about taking care of yourself during the holidays. It will help you recognize what you want to prioritize and what really may not be that important, and that can do wonders to lessen the sense of overwhelm that can accompany the holidays. Your “what if” also may help you shed the need to be all things to all people at this time of year. Let self-care pull the best “what ifs” out of you!
Be around what (and who) makes you smile
What brings you the most joy during the holidays? For some people, it might be shopping for gifts for loved ones. For others, it might be mingling and partying. And for many more, it might be food: cooking it AND eating it!
But what if a key plank in a holiday self-care routine is to surround yourself with what makes YOU happy? That could mean preparing recipes handed down from generation to generation; hanging out with loved ones who make you laugh your head off and stir up wonderful memories of past holidays; truly giving thanks for the blessings of the season; looking at holiday movies that evoke joy and togetherness; going caroling or inviting carolers to your home; or just window shopping and enjoying the festivities.
Does self-care come easily to you during the holiday season? What plans are you making to ensure that you’re taken care of at this time of year?