4 Ways to Practice Self-Care Over the Holidays

Even though the holidays bring excitement and good stress, the emotional roller coaster of the season can knock us off our game. Remember to take time for yourself and to practice self-care over the holiday season.

I don’t know about you, but my silent nights usually turn into evenings of rocking around the Christmas tree over the holiday season. It’s wonderful, and I love the energy that comes with traveling through decorated train stations, reuniting with friends over drinks and playing rousing games of scattergories with my big, beautiful Italian family.

But, let’s be real. For some of us, those train stations can be a nightmarish hellscape of delays and lost luggage. Reunions with old friends come with awkward attempts to avoid running into high school flings at the only bar in town (I’m looking at you, Applebee’s) and by the time you reach the big family gathering, the only other thing you’re reaching for is that big bottle of blackberry wine. What’s a girl to do?

I’m a huge proponent of practicing self-care throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season. We’re all carrying baggage home, things that don’t pack neatly into a suitcase, and placing it aside to enjoy the season might be difficult at times. The answer? Self-care. Here are four ways to care for yourself over the holidays, reduce your stress level and ultimately help you to connect better with those around you.

1. Stick to a routine.

Soft photo of woman on the bed with cup of milk in hands

I’ll bet you weren’t expecting that one. Did you think I was going to tell you to grab some hot chocolate and cuddle up by the fireplace? Nope, girl. Self-care is actually work, but it’s truly a labor of (self-) love.

So, about that routine: don’t break it. If you’re a student, chances are your daily schedule has already been thrown off by a crushing series of final exams, and you’re ready to crawl under that flannel blanket in your own bed and emerge at 3:00 PM for cheesy fries. If you’re a young professional, you’re probably eyeing out your parents’ couch, six bottles of wine and your Netflix queue.

Don’t do that. Give yourself one day of self-indulgence and then get back on track. Wake up at a decent hour and fix yourself a healthy breakfast. Work out—even if it means just walking around the block to ogle the neighbor’s latest Christmas lights display.

Make time for something you love; for example, I always make sure I have time to knit and write poetry as these are important outlets for my emotions and thoughts over the course of the day. Whatever you choose, try to follow the same general routine on a daily basis, from your sleeping and eating times to following your hobbies and cleaning the dishes. Speaking of which…

2. Stay on top of the housework.

Whether you’re staying put in your apartment for the holidays or traveling back to your parents’ house, keeping your place clean and organized helps to reduce external stress over the season.

Here’s a simple way to start: make your bed every morning. Studies show that people who make their bed upon waking up feel more accomplished and are generally more productive over the course of the day. And, heading to bed every evening (at your set time!) will feel more relaxing when you fall into your Pinterest-worthy bed instead of throwing piles of clothes and books onto the floor. Don’t be afraid to fluff it up! Add some cozy throw pillows and warm, knitted blankets. You’ll be more likely to keep your bed neatly made when it’s a beautiful little island away from external stress.

Let’s not stop with the bed! I know that keeping your space clean can be difficult during the week, so I generally use Saturday as my fix-it day. Choosing one day to tidy up your space keeps you accountable, and it doesn’t drag out the cleaning process over the course of the week.

Let’s be real: you’re not actually going to clean the bathroom on a Thursday night. You’re too busy avoiding your ex at Applebee’s. Starting off a Saturday morning, however, with a deep-clean of your bedroom is a great way to begin a hectic holiday weekend.

3. Nourish your body.

muesli with berry fruit

This is probably the most difficult, but it’s also the most important. It can be tempting to go on a month-long holiday spree of chocolate, rich foods, and those little schnapps-filled cookies that your aunt makes.

You should definitely enjoy these things because it’s the holidays, after all! But, balancing your sugar binges with wholesome food is vital to maintaining your physical and mental health—and when I say “wholesome,” I’m not talking juice cleanses.

For wholesome food over the holidays, enjoy a balanced breakfast. Top a big bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit, walnuts and a splash of maple syrup. Toast some grainy bread and add sliced avocado and fried eggs. If you’re short on time, whip up a quick fruit smoothie with those bananas that have been neglected in favor of nut rolls. Treat yourself well.

Holiday parties on the horizon? No problem. Remember: nourishing your body isn’t about dieting or losing weight; it’s about filling your body with things that will make it happy and keep it running.

So, go ahead: snag some spinach artichoke dip and grab a few of grandma’s sugar cookies. Have a glass or two of that strange wine your cousin brought back from his college roommate, but remember to bring something nutritious for yourself and others.

Consider a fruit crumble with nuts, some roasted sweet potatoes or a big platter of fresh vegetables. Again, this is about nourishment and enjoyment, not deprecation.

4. Make time for yourself.

This could also be called “nourish your soul”. Here’s the cool thing about this one: you can do it anywhere. On your way to an ugly sweater party? Take time to really enjoy the drive to your friend’s house.

Notice the beauty of the lights, breathe in the crisp winter air and crank up the radio when your favorite Christmas carol comes on. During the hectic holiday season, finding small moments where your soul is at peace is perhaps the most important aspect of self-care.

You’ll notice this section is shorter than the others because it’s up to you to make time for yourself. Carving out moments of peace can come while cooking dinner, driving to a restaurant, wrapping presents or even in the brief seconds before the door opens to a raucous family party. It’s all up to you.

So there you have it: four simple ways to practice self-care over the holidays. Do you have any other suggestions for taking good care of your body and soul over the season? Leave a comment below, and remember to take time for yourself over the next few weeks!

About the author

Samantha DeFlitch

She is a communications director who often wishes she could return to her job as a sherpa on the Appalachian Trail. She is an experienced public speaker and an advocate for social reform. She believes in the power of the spoken word, the healing abilities of knitted hats, and joy of female collaboration.

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