Why You Need Self-Care During The Holiday Season

Between the stress of travel, spending time with family, and the other pressures that occur this time of year, it’s essential to rely on self-care during the holidays. Discover simple ways to create self-care this holiday season.

Have you ever left a holiday gathering and felt utterly exhausted, promising you’ll “never do that again”?

I’ve been there – more than once. Cross-country flights, last-minute travel plans, and too many commitments to count, all of which left me feeling frustrated, depleted, and very out of touch with the holiday spirit.

Unfortunately, for many, the holidays are a significant source of stress and frustration. With some planning around your self-care, you can navigate the holiday season with less stress and more joy.

A quick 2020 update

While the holidays are on track to look entirely different this year than years past, the tips and advice within this article are more relevant than ever. It’s essential to choose to do what’s best for the health safety of your family and those around you.

gingerbread cookie on a plate

Let’s face it, the holidays are often a stressful time

I don’t know about you, but it always feels like there’s so much to accomplish – travel to plan, presents to buy, projects to finish, family gatherings to attend – towards the end of the year. Throw in a little one into the mix, and it’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed these days. My self-care practices have become even more instrumental in helping me stay grounded, protect my energy, and keep my overall health and wellness a priority.

The holidays can quickly go from a time to relax and connect with loved ones to a harried and stressful few months.

Creating sustainable and realistic self-care practices can empower you to show up as your best self for the holidays and navigate the seasonal overwhelm as easily as possible.

Use proactive self-care

Self-care is usually something that’s done too late. Often, we use self-care as a reaction to something that has already happened or caused us stress.

Instead, I suggest focusing on using more proactive self-care practices throughout the holiday season. Using proactive self-care instead of reactive can help you take steps to prevent burnout, frustration, sickness, and exhaustion. Keep reading for a list of proactive (and a few reactive) self-care ideas that you can begin to implement this holiday season.

If you plan your self-care correctly, you can cruise through the holidays with confidence, knowing that practices are in place to help you feel grounded and present. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Self-care planning tips for the holidays

A lot of planning usually goes into the holidays: travel, presents, meals, time off work, etc. I want to add self-care to the ongoing list of how to prepare for the holidays. Check out the below list of tips on how to seamlessly incorporate self-care into the upcoming holiday season.

Tip one: get clear on your priorities

Getting super clear on what’s the most important to you during the holidays can help set you up to enjoy the season with as little stress as possible.

To help you gain some insight into your holiday priorities, ask yourself the below questions.

  1. In an ideal (but still realistic) world, how would I spend my holidays?
  2. What’s stopping me from achieving that vision?
  3. What’s the biggest priority for me this year? ex: budget, seeing family, vacation, etc.

Tip two: Create healthy boundaries

Learning to create healthy boundaries during the holidays can potentially save you a lot of time and stress. Boundaries help you to communicate more clearly, set expectations with others, and create more peace and harmony within your life.

Of course, setting boundaries isn’t always natural. It can be downright tricky, especially if tension is already high during the holidays. Layer in a global pandemic, and it’s downright anxiety-producing.

Following tip one and clarifying your priorities will help you realign with what’s most important to you. That alignment will then give you a boost of confidence when saying No or setting your boundaries. Also, you can rely on these helpful one-liners to help you set and stick to your boundaries:

  • No, thanks. We have to do what’s best for our family this year.
  • We won’t be there. We’re not comfortable attending gatherings this season, but we will miss you!
  • Let me get back to you on that. I need to spend some time thinking about our best plan of action.
  • This is how we’ve decided to spend our holidays. Next year may be different!

Tip three: Set realistic expectations

It can feel easy to feel the pressure to do it all and see it all, but in order to create self-care during the holidays, you must be realistic about how much you can take on.

Using your newfound priorities and honing on your boundary-setting skills, be honest with yourself and others about how much you can show up for – in any capacity. Commit to the opportunities that light you up inside and release the rest without feeling too guilty.

Above all, remember that you’re human. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to overachieve during the busiest time of the year.

woman laughing holding a cake

Essential holiday self-care practices

Now that you know how to effectively plan your holiday self-care thanks to the above tips check out the below essential holiday self-care practices. These practices are designed to help keep you feeling like your best self.

1. Work on being present

Do you know what can add more stress to an already stressful time? Feeling like you have to be multiple places at once – physically and mentally.

Try to put the phone away – the emails and texts can wait – and focus on being truly present in the physical space you’re in at the moment. Being present can sometimes feel tricky at first, and you might even feel a bit anxious without your phone. With time, you will come to discover that time spent being present is way more enjoyable than showing up only halfway or constantly being distracted.

2. Practice expressing gratitude

When you begin to feel overwhelmed from the stress of the holidays, focus on finding three things you’re grateful for in that moment. Working to practice gratitude can help to re-frame any of the stress you might be experiencing and invite in feelings of happiness and joy.

Remember, the things you’re grateful for don’t have to be drastic or life-changing, they can be as big or as little as you need them to be – it’s whatever brings a genuine warmth to your heart and a smile to your face.

3. Focus on enjoying, not restricting

Wether it’s food, drinks, or company – focusing on the enjoyment you receive rather than falling into the mindset of restriction can be a nourishing form of self-care.

When you restrict yourself from eating a slice of cake, enjoying a festive holiday drink, or making time for those who matter most, it’s easy to end up feeling resentful and frustrated.

Also, restriction can cause overindulgence when self-control is at its lowest, especially when it comes to food and drinks. Focus on enjoying the slice of cake or the holiday drink, but don’t overdo it.

4. Set boundaries as needed

As I mentioned above, setting healthy boundaries is not only a tip to help plan for a stress-free holiday season, but they’re also a powerful form of self-care.

In general, a boundary is a limit that communicates what behavior is okay and what is not okay. You can create these healthy boundaries with yourself (internal boundaries) or with others (external boundaries).

5. Maintain a workout routine

Staying active and keeping up with your workout routine is essential for creating self-care during the holidays. Working out isn’t for “punishing” yourself or to “make up” for something you ate; rather, it’s to flood your body with endorphins and do something that helps you feel good.

I know it can be tough to workout while traveling or when your calendar is jam-packed. Thankfully, there are some simple tools that can help you fit in a workout anywhere, no matter how much time you have.

Carley’s tips for working out on the go:

  • Commit to walking at least one mile a day
  • Complete a series of simple stretches in the morning
  • Invest in 1 lb. ankle/wrist weights (I love these!)
  • Bring a set of resistance bands

Final words about self-care during the holidays

Rememeber, self-care is a unique practice that looks different from person to person.

We all have different requirements for happiness and that’s okay! Gaining a clearer picture of what a healthy and productive self-care practice looks like for you is one of the most powerful actions you can take for yourself this holiday season.

More resources on holiday self-care

Setting Healthy Boundaries During the Holidays

Podcast: Holiday Boundary-Setting Tips and the Importance of Self-Care



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