Our schedules become a whirlwind when December arrives, with holiday gift shopping, school concerts, staff parties, family gatherings and more.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ōmisoka, or some other special day in December, all the commitments of the season take up much of our free time, and the hectic schedule can also make for additional stress. For some, the holiday season is not always a joyful one. Some experience grief more acutely at holiday time, for instance, or feel overwhelmed by family expectations or financial concerns.
With all that going on, it’s hard to find time for yourself. But it’s perhaps more vital than ever at this time of year, so here’s how to sneak in self care during the holidays, with our 5 easy to follow tips.
1. Stay Active
It’s easy to quit going to the gym when December is rushing by, but this is the time you need to keep active. Physically, exercise will help to offset the big meals, appetizer parties and extra glass of wine, since exercise can help with weight reduction and improved cardiovascular fitness.1 But exercise is also good for your mental health.1
Studies have shown that aerobic exercises, which can include dancing—a perfect holiday activity—as well as walking, jogging, swimming and cycling, can reduce anxiety and depression, improve mood, and provide stress relief.1
Regular exercise provides these other benefits:1
- Improved sleep
- Increased interest in sex
- Increased energy, stamina and endurance
- Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness
So don’t wait until January and don’t think you need a gym membership or a fancy home exercise machine. Even a daily walk or yoga program can give you the boost you need at holiday time and throughout the year.
2. Make Appointments with Yourself
You make notations in your calendar when you have a meeting with your boss, when your kids have a school concert, or for the annual Christmas party. So why wouldn’t you book time with and for yourself?
For instance, schedule an hour a week and take time to do whatever will decrease stress and make you feel better. That could be a massage, a walk in the park, or simply a hot bath alone with some time for meditation and relaxation breathing. Having time to yourself can be critical for growth and personal development.2
So write it down and follow through. You wouldn’t miss an appointment with your boss, your spouse, or your mom, so don’t miss time with yourself. In fact, this is a good habit to practice all year long.
3. Say No
We all get stretched thin over the holiday season, and feel that we need to say yes to every invitation or request. How about saying yes to the things that are really important to you, but feeling okay about guarding your time? Don’t feel guilty about saying no politely to anything that drains you or feels stressful.3 If you want to stay home and hang the lights early instead of going to the office party, then you should do what makes you feel good.
4. Say Yes
On the other hand, you’ll hear lots of “don’ts” about the holiday season, like watching what you eat or limiting alcohol intake, for instance.
But it’s important to let yourself enjoy that holiday dinner, and have the appetizer you want at the staff party. We’re not suggesting you overdo it and feel terrible the next day. We are suggesting that you can indulge in some holiday cheer and you should still feel good about yourself. Just know your own limits, and let yourself be happy about your choices.
5. Start A New Habit, Like Journaling
If the holiday season is a difficult time for you, or you do have trouble making time for yourself, take five minutes each day to reflect. A gratitude journal, for instance, is an ideal way to cherish the memories you’re making by listing what you’re grateful for during this season and all year long.
That’s because a gratitude journal forces us to pay attention to the good things in life, and the events and people we might take for granted. Some research suggests that consciously giving thanks can have profound effects on our well-being; people who routinely express gratitude enjoy better health and greater happiness.4
A journal can help if you struggle at this time of year, too. Journals have also been shown to help deal with overwhelming emotions, by providing a healthy way to express yourself. Keeping a journal has been shown to help manage anxiety, reduce stress and cope with depression.5
Look After Yourself
The holiday season can be a time of joy, togetherness, and celebration. It can also be stressful, and even lead to overwhelming or negative emotions.
It’s important for all of us to look after our health in December, as we do all year long. If the season is causing more than a little sadness, seek help by using our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you. And make an appointment with yourself while you’re at it, to take time to relax and sneak in self care during the holidays.