The winter holiday season is upon us (at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere). It’s easy to get caught up in this picturesque image of the holidays: hot chocolate and twinkle lights, cozy sweaters and caroling, brightly wrapped presents and family togetherness.
I love the idea of the holidays. The warmth, happiness, and peace.
The problem, of course, is the amount of extra stress that comes with it. On top of normal work, family, and household duties you have special dinners to prepare and clean up after. There are holiday parties to dress for, and look-at-my-happy-family holiday cards to send. You have to choose the perfect gift (or at least a gift) for your boss who doesn’t like anything. Decorating the house makes you realize you haven’t dusted since the last time you strung the garland up along the fireplace mantle, and the kids are home on break demanding snacks and entertainment.
‘Tis the season of mandatory family fun time and merry-making.
My point is this can be a busy, exhausting, stressful time of year. We’re encouraged (guilted? threatened? voluntold?) to give even more of ourselves than usual because ‘tis the season of giving and whatnot. And when you combine that stress with the added pressure to be happy and present all. the. time. you have the perfect recipe for disaster. Because all that giving makes us even less likely than usual to give to ourselves.
If you’ve hung around here long enough you probably already know what my stance on that is. You can’t take care of everyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first. You’re just going to burn yourself out, and you won’t be able to enjoy all those happy holiday moments you work so hard to create.
How to Give Yourself a Break This Holiday Season
Ok, but how do you fit in some quality self-care when your schedule is already jam-packed? You don’t have a whole lot of free time right now, you promised you wouldn’t buy yourself anything in case someone already got it for you as a gift, and you’re probably a bit cash-poor these days anyway. But before you throw your hands in the air and storm off in frustration, hear me out.
Self-care isn’t always (or even usually) about taking hours out of your day to do nice, expensive things for yourself. Massages and solo getaways are relaxing, and the break from reality allows you to calm down a bit so you can think rationally again. But when you’re done with these kinds of activities, life is STILL THERE. You still have to deal with everything when you come back down.
And therein lies the problem with the popular notion of self-care. REAL self-care isn’t just about bubble baths and scented candles (although they can be part of a healthy self-care routine). REAL self-care is taking care of your needs so that you’re able to go about your daily life.
REAL self-care is made up of those little moments throughout your day that help you stay sane. So you don’t need to buy a special body butter or carve out a bunch of extra time.
But You Do Need a Plan
If you really want to enjoy the craziness this holiday season, you need a plan that does 4 things. A good holiday self-care plan will…
- protect your time so you can focus on the things that really matter to you.
- keep you mentally and physically ready for increased activity and social interaction.
- prepare you for those times when you start to feel overwhelmed.
- help you get back on track if you accidentally lose your calm completely.
Then you need to prioritize your most important self-care, schedule it, and protect it like a rabid chipmunk.
I know, I know. It sounds like a lot! That’s why I made you this Holiday Self-Care Plan Workbook. Grab your copy right here, then scroll down to find out exactly how this works!
5 Ways to Get Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind
#1: Say NO (Even to Yourself)
Just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean you have to do every single thing that comes your way. You don’t have to bake a bazillion cookies, volunteer for your kid’s craft day, lead the caroling, hand-make presents for every member of your ginormous extended family, and plan a neighborhood holiday party extravaganza.
You are not responsible for ensuring the holiday joy of every person you come into contact with.
Choose a couple of things you really, truly enjoy – things that give YOU joy during the season – then let the rest go.
#2: Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is foundational to your ability to manage everything else, so it’s pretty important to not skip it, even when you get really busy. So how are you going to make sure you get enough sleep on a regular basis?
Here are some ideas:
- Set an alarm that reminds you to go to bed. (I show you how to do this on the iPhone here!)
- Making sure you follow basic sleep hygiene practices: keep your room at a comfortable temperature, cover any distracting lights, pick up some earplugs if noise is an issue.
- Try a free white noise app on your phone, or some calming instrumental music.
- If you have a bed partner who keeps you awake, think about trying a night or two in a different bed, or on the couch. I know society says sleeping in separate places means your relationship is bad… but I’ve found that sleeping in separate beds actually makes my relationship better since I don’t wake up resenting my partner for his snoring and flopping around all night. Likewise, I don’t keep him up with my kicking and singing. It’s a win-win situation.
- Put away your phone and pick up a good old flip-the-pages book. As much as I hate to admit it, all the studies are actually right: you’ll sleep better if your brain has a chance to unwind from the screens.
- Create a calming bedtime routine to help you transition. I like to get into my pajamas, make a mug of hot tea with honey, and curl up with a book. Doing the same thing every night signals to your brain that it’s time to start winding down for sleep.
Pick a couple of things to try for a few nights. It’s important to find what works for you!
#3: Honor Your Other Non-Negotiables
What’s your one non-negotiable self-care activity? I’m talking about that one thing that when it gets done your whole day goes better. Or that one thing that when you don’t do it your whole day goes to shit. Either way.
Mine is alone time. Without some quality introvert time, I get stabby.
Maybe yours is exercise, spiritual practice, date night… Whatever it is, make it non-negotiable. Schedule it into your calendar, and then take the time to do it. Even if there are other things that seem like they need to get done more (I promise, they most likely don’t).
#4: Create a Relaxation Ritual
Create a super fast-and-easy relaxation ritual to use when you feel yourself getting stressed out. Something you can do right in the middle of that big gathering of family you haven’t seen since last year when your MAGA hat-wearing cousin is shooting off their mouth.
Maybe you can whip out your phone and start showing around pictures of your new puppy, or the kids’ latest Lego masterpiece. Go eat pie in the bathroom. Or just take a moment to check out mentally and breathe.
Then excuse yourself and go talk to someone more enjoyable. Even if that someone is the family cat. Just have a plan, and don’t be afraid to use it if you notice yourself getting panicky.
#5: Forgive Yourself
It’s hard to stay present and enjoy things fully when there’s so much going on. And it’s hard not to dwell when things go wrong.
That’s why my final tip for getting through the season of forgiveness is this: forgive yourself.
Know that you’re going to be stressed out, overwhelmed, and exhausted sometimes. You might completely lose your shit. So when you do, forgive yourself and move on. Take a moment to recenter, practice your relaxation ritual, and dive back in. You don’t have to enjoy every moment, but don’t let yourself get in the way of enjoying as much as you can.
You’re not perfect, and that’s okay.
Create Your Own Holiday Self-Care Preparedness Plan
Now it’s time to put these tips into action and create your own unique Holiday Self-Care Plan. It only takes 5-10 minutes, and will help you stay on track for the next couple of months! So grab your workbook, and let’s get this done!
Wishing you peace, love, and sanity as we wrap up this crazy year…
What do you think?
How are you preparing to make this holiday season less stressful? Let me know in the comments!
(And don’t forget your workbook!)