Ah, the holidays. It truly can be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be stressful for many. The shopping, the socializing, and, often, the self-care sacrifices can wear a person down. But since taking care of yourself can help keep you sane this season, we've gathered some tips to assist you in doing just that.
There are countless ways to care for oneself during the busy holiday season, say Stephanie Kersta and Carolyn Plater who, together, founded Hoame, a wellness and meditation space in Toronto. The pair told HuffPost Canada that the most important thing is to find a self-care method that works for you.
"Self-care is so important as a way to regenerate and refresh after giving so much of ourselves to others, but there is no one size fits all," they said. "Self-care has become synonymous with face masks, smoothie bowls, and time-consuming bubble baths. While these do regenerate some people, others may find that a quiet night in ordering take-out is just what is needed. Listen to what you feel you need, and do that!"
Self-care starting strategies
Self-care needs to be prioritized when our schedules fill up, and to-do lists get longer during the holiday season, says Monica Krake, a Vancouver-based entrepreneur and founder of Head + Heart, a calendar of wellness events.
Start by deciding how you want the holiday season to shape up; this can help you make your needs and wants clear to everyone in your life. Intentionality can help eliminate the possibility of getting swept up in obligations that can cause stress.
"If you have a family who loves to plan a lot of activities over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and you want to only do one thing on each day, you need to make that clear early on," she said. "It's OK not to do it all!"
Take out a calendar and plan your holiday in a way that's manageable and doesn't feel stressful. And schedule "you" time in that calendar as well. Whether you need time alone or around others to restore, or time to exercise or meditate, consider what practices make you feel grounded and healthy, and schedule time to include those things during your week.
"The more you do this for yourself, the more of you you'll ultimately have to give to others," Krake said. "The alternative we all know too well is getting roped into plans that everyone else in your life may have in mind for you. Make your holiday stress-free by deciding what you want the season to look like for you — this may mean skipping a few things or opting out of some gift exchanges."
Speaking of gifts, Krake recommends clearly communicating how you'd like gift-giving to go.
"Do you want to do a paired-down exchange, or opt out of the family gift exchange? These are important wishes to communicate to everyone involved, even if it means someone may not like your decision. Being honest about your needs is a big part of real self-care."
Kersta and Plater add that is it important to be honest with friends and family about how you're feeling during the holidays; they also advise alleviating any guilt you might feel around saying no, recognizing that the best thing you can do for yourself is to listen to your needs.
Our bodies love routine and predictability, but with the holidays, that often goes out the window. So, trying to maintain as much of a healthy lifestyle as possible is recommended. Adequate sleep is one of the best things you can try to maintain. If you're having trouble sleeping, Kersta and Plater suggest investing in a gravity blanket, or tea that is proven to be calming.
The pair also recommends you get outside, if even for five to 10 minutes per day when it's light out — nature has been clinically proven to have positive effects on mood and energy.
Exercise is also obviously backed by clinical research proving the positive benefits on mood, energy, sleep and much more.
Meditation follows suit, helping to boost mood, alleviate stress and anxiety, improve sleep, boost immunity and increase the ability to be present. Kersta and Plater believe that with the rush of the holidays, the ability to slow down and be fully present can really help us enjoy this time of year.
Taking time throughout the day to practice mindful breathing or meditation is a great self-care practice that anyone can incorporate into their day; even if it's only for five minutes, it helps a lot, says Krake.
There are many meditation resources, apps and teachers available online such as Headspace, Calm, Adyashanti, Deepak Chopra and Tara Bracht. You can also find tons of great, free, guided meditations on YouTube.
"We often encourage the gift of presence versus the gifts of presents, as human connection leads to increased longevity, decreased stress response, and overall mood improvement," said Kersta and Plater.
Practice gratitude. The holidays are full of reminders of things we need to buy, but science shows us taking a few moments to reflect on what we already have, and what we are grateful for, will go a long way in our overall satisfaction.
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"People often say they don't have time for themselves, but by taking two minutes at your desk to take some deep belly breaths, or taking five minutes on your subway ride to jot down a few things you are grateful for, or swapping out one coffee for a herbal tea all don't take a huge investment in time, but will payoff in terms of mood improvement, stress reduction, and overall satisfaction," said Kersta and Plater.
Other practices that are easy to do every day include taking a walk, enjoying a dance-party break, listening to your favourite music, journaling, chatting with a close friend, or listening to an inspiring podcast.
Whatever helps you feel more grounded and connected is worth adding to your day, especially over the holidays.
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