By Nia Simone McLeod
The holiday season is often thought of as being a joyous time filled with love and happiness. But, there are many reasons why “the most wonderful time of the year” isn’t exactly as wonderful as you may think. With packed schedules and long gift lists to cross off, it can be hard to find time for yourself within the hustle and bustle of the season. But now more than ever, it’s incredibly important to practice self-care and make sure that you are the number #1 person on your gift list.
- Let Go of Expectations
Television, movies, social media, and even your annoying over-achieving neighbor can put exuberant and gaudy representations of what the holidays should look like in our faces at all times. Don’t let their “perfect” view of the holidays bring you down. It’s all about your true interpretation of the holidays and what makes it special for you; perfection doesn’t exist. Let go of what you think the holidays should be and celebrate it for what it is.
- Practice Moderation
Unhealthy food is synonymous with the holiday season. There’s cookies, cakes, and pies galore. Therefore, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of unhealthy behaviors towards food when you’ve got seemingly endless Thanksgiving leftovers sitting in the fridge. Eating too much, or too little, can cause your body to feel depleted. Try to stick to your regular diet and exercise routine during this time. And if you find yourself indulging in a holiday cookie or two, don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s not about eradication; it’s about moderation.
- Learn How to Say No
During the holidays, you might feel as though you’re getting stretched too thin. From your extended family members to your old college friends, everybody may be asking for a piece of your time or efforts. But if you feel as though you can’t (or don’t want to) do what others ask of you, just let them know. Don’t feel obligated to attend every holiday soiree. Don’t feel like you have to accomplish every good deed. If you don’t feel like it’ll bring you joy in the end, just say no.
- Listen To Your Mind and Body
During the holidays, your senses are often put into overload. You’re often seeing family and friends that you don’t normally see and doing things that you don’t normally do. Throughout your day, make a mental check and ask yourself how you’re feeling. Be honest when you answer back, and make changes towards getting your mind to a better place at that moment.
On the other hand, even if your mind is pumped for this year’s holiday season, your body might not be. The American Psychological Association reports that some of the signals of increased stress are blurred vision, increased breathing, and irritability. If you aren’t feeling right, take a step back and focus on doing the things that make you happy.
- Make a Gratitude List
The holiday season is the perfect time to take a minute and think about what you’re thankful for. Studies show that expressing gratitude can make a lasting positive effect on your brain. Make sure that anything and everything you value gets on this list. Put your parents; put your adorable pet; you can even put your warm bed. Putting pen to paper gives you time to put your life into perspective and remember the things that truly give you joy. Put it somewhere you’ll see it often so you can always remember what your “why” is as you live your life.
- Have a Laugh
Humor can be an excellent stress reliever. Make an effort towards giving yourself a couple of extra laughs during this holiday season. For example, give a call to your funniest friend or family member or unashamedly watch that hilariously corny holiday movie on Netflix for the 30th time.
- Create New Traditions
Often, holiday stress can come from keeping things in line with what has already been done in the past. If practicing these traditions is doing you more harm than good, try and create some of your own that can make your holiday special and perfect for you. Maybe they’ll become the next holiday staple in your family!
- Respect Your Budget
The holidays can unexpectedly run up bills that are taller than skyscrapers. This can cause endless amounts of stress to your mind and body. Before you head out to go shopping for the holidays, make a rock-solid budget for you to stick to. Write this number on a piece of paper, or on your phone, and keep it with you as you shop so you’ll remember. That way, there’s a better chance that you’ll stick to the goals that you set. Your mind, and your bank account, will thank you later.
- Give Yourself a Gift
As the old saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Take the time to appreciate yourself and give yourself a gift that you can’t buy from the mall. Make yourself an extra steamy cup of hot cocoa. Schedule out a solo dance party to Jingle Bell Rock in your hectic day. Run yourself a hot bath. Give yourself a gift of self-love. That’s one that’ll last well into the new year.
- Take a Nap
You need your rest more than you know. When you’re feeling drowsy throughout the day, take 30 minutes or less to get a quick cat nap in. The National Sleep Foundation reports that short naps can bring about a ton of positive effects to the body including improved alertness and performance. The next time you’re feeling drained from the previous thing on your to-do list lay back, set your alarm for a couple of minutes in the future, and rest your eyes.
Having a truly joyful holiday starts with taking care of yourself. Implementing even just one of the previous tips into your holiday routine will help alleviate your stressors and get you back on track for a brighter, and healthier holiday season. Then, truly, it might actually become “the most wonderful time of the year.”