December 20, 2020

7 Self-Care Tips For The Holiday Season

The holiday season is sometimes the busiest time of the year as we prepare for the next year. With that comes a variety of emotions, both positive and negative. There can be excitement from seeing family and friends, but also stress and sadness. For many, the holiday season involves taking care of others. However, this can leave little time to take care of oneself.

Below are some self-care tips that I have found useful, and I hope they help you too:

1. Regularly schedule time to engage in self-care activities. If you don't prioritize it, it's less likely to happen. Add uninterrupted blocks of time to your calendar where you are only focused on what brings you joy. Some activities include a morning cup of tea, listening to your favorite music or podcast, taking a walk, an at-home facial mask, meditation, or a hobby you enjoy. Scheduling these activities at the same time will not only help in creating a routine, but will give you something to look forward to each day. If you need help remembering, set an alarm to remind yourself to choose YOU.

2. Get enough sleep. If you're like me, it's so easy to stay up late! One minute you're preparing for bed, the next minute it's 2am and you're binging on Netflix. Whether it’s studying, going out with friends, or because your brain simply won’t “shut off," not getting an adequate amount of sleep can leave you feeling drained and far from cheerful. This is something that I’ve struggled with for years, but I've been able to create a wind down nightly routine that works when I take it seriously (haha). Making sure you get enough sleep not only helps with daytime alertness, but it's great for your mental health.

3. Unplug yourself. We're in an age where most people are glued to their electronic devices. It's SO hard to take a break when technology is around us all day, every day. Habitually, the phone was the first thing I looked at when I woke up, so I get it. As much as I love the internet, it’s so important to give your mind and eyesight some time to switch off. I've been slowly weening myself off electronics by setting alarms when I exceed a certain time limit. I've also been working on setting boundaries for when I stop checking or responding to emails. By doing this, I've gained more appreciation for the world and people around me. I've also noticed that it's getting easier for me to practice mindfulness and be fully present in moments without thinking about capturing them.

4. Declutter. This may be the last thing on your list of things to do, but taking the time to refresh your spaces can help reset your mental energy. It’s okay to let go of things that no longer bring you joy or you don't need. One area I personally need to declutter is a stack of papers sitting in my office (hidden of course). Perhaps you can start off by picking one or two areas to declutter so that you don't get overwhelmed. It could be as small as a drawer, or as big as your kitchen (yikes!) If it's within your budget, you can also hire people like me who actually love decluttering and home organization. When I reorganize, I find that it frees up some mental space and I feel accomplished.

5. Tune into the emotions you are experiencing. As a young widow, I can be triggered at any time. These triggers can be positive or negative. A smell can trigger a pleasant memory, or an ambulance siren can trigger negative flashbacks. Call “time outs” on yourself to give yourself the opportunity to check in on your feelings. Carry around a small journal (or use the notes in your phone) to write down your stress level and feelings at various times during the day. Note what you're doing and who is around too. Have a list of activities you can engage in to relax for a few minutes to re-center yourself.

6. Try to understand why you might be experiencing negative emotions. For some people, the stress of the holidays might be related to unrealistic expectations or goals they've set around the holidays. For example, I wanted to put up a tree for the first time in five years. I had a vision of how great the experience would be. I ended up crying while joyful Christmas music played in the background. I was overwhelmed. The tree did go up and looks cute, but I put way too much pressure on myself for it to be "just right." That experience taught me the importance of readjusting goals so they're actually realistic and attainable.

7. Practice feeling gratitude. It's unusual for an ENTIRE year to be challenging; but 2020 has been that year. Many have suffered loss during this COVID-19 pandemic. Taking time out of your day to focus on one thing you are grateful for can help you feel a bit more in control and mindful. I usually "play positives" at the start and end of the day. It’s easy to forget the good things that we do have when society bombards us with what's going wrong. At this moment, I am grateful for my supportive family who make me feel safe and loved.

Taking time out to care for yourself is not selfish; it’s something you deserve! Enjoy the holidays and remember to prioritize some daily “me-time” to help you feel more grounded.  As the flight attendants say as part of their safety demonstration, you need to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others. Your needs and emotions are first during this time. I hope these seven tips helped you find meaning and some joy during this holiday season!