Harvard Health Blog
Prioritizing the “me” in merry:
Self-care strategies for this holiday season
Posted By David R. Topor, PhD, MS-HPEd
The holiday season is filled with hustle and bustle. There’s plenty of excitement from seeing family and friends, but also stress, travel, long lines, planning, preparation — and a range of emotions from positive to negative.
For many, the holiday season means planning and taking care of others. However, this leaves little time for taking care of oneself. Below are a few ideas on how to practice self-care during this holiday season.
Regularly schedule time to engage in self-care activities. Schedule self-care activities (exercise, meditation, a hobby you enjoy) at the same time each day so they become routine or set a timer or alarm to remind yourself.
Practice gratitude for the people and events in your life. This might include writing in a journal about what you appreciate in your life, or letting others know the gratitude you feel. Engage in deep breathing or other relaxation skills. This can include listening to soothing music or engaging in an imagery exercise. You can also engage in a number of other relaxation skills.
Tune into the emotions you are experiencing. Emotions may be positive, negative, or a combination of the two. Call “time outs” for yourself and check in on your feelings. Write down your feelings in a journal.
Try to understand why you might be experiencing negative emotions.For some people, negative emotions might be related to unrealistic expectations or goals of themselves around the holidays, or from feeling overwhelmed. Readjust goals so they are specific and attainable.
Monitor your stress level.Write down your stress level in a journal at various times during the day. Take note of the situation you are in when feeling stressed. Is it around certain people? Or engaging in specific activities? Have a list of activities you can engage in to relax for a few minutes. Perhaps this is taking a walk, doing a few minutes of yoga, or watching a favorite TV show or movie.
Being present around the presents. Practice mindfulness and meditation. This can include spending a minute or two being present in your environment. Take notice of the smells, sounds, and sights of the holidays. Notice the differences between the holiday season and other times of the year. Mindfulness techniques can be more than quiet contemplation.
Take care of your physical health. Ensure adequate sleep and a nutritious diet. Develop a plan to enjoy the special foods and treats around the holidays, while balancing them with healthy eating.
So, enjoy the holidays and remember to take time to care for your own needs and emotions. Remember, as the flight attendants say as part of their safety preparations, you need to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others. This may help you more fully appreciate and find meaning this holiday season.
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