The joy and enchantment of the holiday season can easily morph into a draining list of obligations and heavy emotion, especially while grieving a loss. If you are suffering from a case of the holiday blues this year, you’re not alone. Loneliness, anxiety and depression are often exacerbated in the wintertime.
Perhaps, making matters worse are the added financial pressures and commercialization of the holiday season. It’s not uncommon to be left feeling inadequate or overburdened while trying to keep up. Whether the perceptions we hold are rooted in true expectations from others, or we place them upon ourselves, the holidays can be rough. Instead of letting external pressures take over, shift your focus toward self-care and take some opportunities to rejuvenate.
Here are 12 practical self-care tips to help you survive the holidays feeling refreshed, rather than worn-out.
This one might be a real challenge depending on your typical cell phone usage. Let others know what your plans are and set an anticipated timeframe to go off the grid. The constant buzzing of texts, emails and distractions can seem to come at us from every corner. Cell phones, tablets and laptops are stealing our attention and ability to be fully present in the moment. Give yourself a chance to unplug and focus on your surroundings for a while. You might be surprised by how much a simple break can adjust your mindset and help you recharge.
When is the last time you did a creative project? Whether it’s drawing, sewing, painting or building something, nurture your creative side. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to try or an activity you used to enjoy in the past, carve out some time to pursue it. Sign up for a class, watch a YouTube tutorial, or brainstorm using your own creativity. Gather your supplies and produce a finished product that you can feel proud of.
This is something you can do for a stranger or someone you know personally. Offer a hot lunch to a homeless person, buy coffee for a stranger or help out an older neighbor with a household chore. You’d be surprised how good helping others can make you feel in return. It doesn’t have to be anything big. Just a small gesture can make a big difference.
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as transforming a chaotic space into an organized one, especially if it’s a space you regularly use. Sort through the kitchen spices in your pantry, the toiletries in your bathroom closet or take on a larger decluttering project, like a garage, shed, basement or attic. Start with an area that’s small enough to tackle in a few hours so you don’t burn yourself out. Make a reasonable goal, like collecting one bag of items to donate or filling one box of trash to discard. Focus on progress, not perfection. Be sure to admire your work when you’re done.
Even if you’re not a skilled chef, you can find a recipe online and follow a few simple steps to create a decent meal. Food is one of the joys of life. Preparing a nutritious, delicious meal is a great way to nourish your mind, body and spirit. Smell and taste are two senses that can evoke strong emotions and impact our mood. Create something you love and savor it.
If you’re a commuter, you probably spend a lot of time in your vehicle. It can quickly amass quite a bit of junk if you aren’t diligent about keeping it tidy. Freshening up your car with a professional detailing job or even just a quick trip to the gas station vacuum machine can make a big difference. You’ll be glad you did it the next time you head out for a drive or offer to give someone a lift.
When you’re finally at home relaxing, make sure you can get comfortable. A new pair of cozy slippers can set the tone for a pleasant morning or a calm evening. A soft blanket, comfortable loungewear and a large mug for coffee or tea are essentials that you deserve. Feel your best at home by setting up your environment to truly unwind.
As a busy adult, it can be tough to justify taking the time to read just for pleasure. Pay your library a visit and get some books that interest you. Even if what you are reading doesn’t have a practical application, it’s worth reading for enjoyment from time to time. Tap into your imagination with a great story. Writing is another (100% free) way to express yourself and develop your thoughts. Try journaling, writing poetry, short stories or letters to sharpen your writing skills and profess your thoughts. Even if you’re the only one who reads what you write, this endeavor pays off in letting you express yourself and giving you a chance to better understand the inner workings of your mind by putting them down on paper.
When is the last time you asked someone for help? There’s no reason to feel like the world is on your shoulders alone. People generally enjoy helping others. Sometimes you just need to let them know how. Don’t expect others to offer to help you when they didn’t know you needed help in the first place. Reach out and see if you can get some assistance to make your life a little bit easier. You may be surprised to discover how willing others are to pitch in when you let them.
Even if you don’t plan on bringing a pet home to live with you, spending some time with animals is a proven way to reduce stress and feel more connected. Volunteer for a day at a local pet shelter. Visit a nearby pet store, zoo, aquarium or offer to pet sit for a friend.
If you’re someone who tends to think things but then forgets to say them, make sure you take an opportunity to actually say thank you. Send a thank you card or just offer a smile and a kind word of thanks. Putting your gratitude into words helps bring a positive light to your day, and to others around you. Can’t think of anyone to thank? Try giving a compliment instead. Everyone could use a compliment every now and again. You just might bring joy to someone else who is struggling.
Is there something you’ve been dreading? It’s okay to say no once in a while, especially if you feel in your heart that you just can’t do what is being asked of you. If you feel overwhelmed by the number of events on your calendar, the gifts on your shopping list or the requirements being placed upon you, just say no. Give yourself permission to turn down the things that aren’t serving you. The people who love you will understand. It’s okay to give yourself a break sometimes.
This list is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully it encourages you to keep your wants and needs on the holiday list with everyone else’s this year. Giving to others and maintaining your own sense of worth and happiness don’t have to mutually exclusive efforts. Only after taking care of yourself will you be truly able to support those around you.