The holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. However, the holidays also bring with them a slew of exhausting activities, ranging from gift shopping and decorating the tree to cooking and reconnecting with relatives, each of which draws its own set of stress and anxiety.
When there's so much going on, it's easy to neglect your own needs. However, mental health professionals emphasize the importance of self-care during the hectic holiday season for your mental and emotional well-being.
Here are ten quick but effective ways to look after yourself over the holidays, as recommended by mental health & wellbeing professionals:
- Make time to check in with yourself.
Making time for yourself should be as non-negotiable as brushing your teeth in the morning. Put it on your calendar every day to recharge for at least ten minutes. Self-care is not selfish, because it's vital for our well-being. Remember, even the energizer bunny needs to recharge its batteries.
- Stay Hydrated.
Drink water to stay hydrated. With all of the celebrations, gatherings, wines and champagnes (if you drink), we forget to drink water. When we're busy, we often underestimate the importance of adequate water intake and forget to hydrate entirely, but dehydration can often take a toll on the body and make you feel awful. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces per day, and carry a reusable water bottle with you at all times to avoid being high and dry. Water, among other things, increases energy and flushes toxins from your system.
- Make a budget and stick to it.
We all want to be generous to our loved ones, but holiday shopping should not jeopardize our financial health. According to a recent survey, a large percentage of the population is going into debt to spread holiday cheer, which can be disastrous. So, be realistic about how much you can afford to spend on your loved ones, make a budget, and stick to it. Remember, thoughtfulness has no monetary value.
Holidays can be financially stressful. Make a plan, allocate funds, and remember that if money is tight, it's the thought that counts. Your value is not determined by the gifts you give or can afford.
- Pamper yourself.
Take care of yourself. The holidays are an excellent excuse to indulge in some self-care. Get a new haircut, a relaxing massage, a manicure, or do something else for yourself. Keep your skin healthy and constantly moisturize your skin. If possible, go for a walk. The cold weather forces us to stay indoors, but research shows that going for a walk benefits both our mental and physical health.
- Taking deep breaths.
We don't always pay attention to how we breathe, but according to a Harvard Health Publishing report, "shallow breathing restricts the diaphragm's range of motion." As a result, the lower part of the lungs does not receive its fair share of oxygenated air, which can make you feel short of breath and anxious, it adds. We can properly oxygenate the body, lower heart rate, stabilize blood pressure, and improve immunity simply by deepening our breath, according to Hagar. Furthermore, studies show that slow breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, induces calm and improves cognitive performance. Another simple breathing technique to help you de-stress in five minutes or less.
- Practice self-compassion.
Being kind and forgiving to yourself is another effective way to improve your mental health. According to a report by the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, harsh self-criticism activates our sympathetic nervous system (which prepares the body for a "fight or flight" response) and raises stress hormones like cortisol. Self-compassion or self-love, on the other hand, helps you stay calm in the face of adversity, reduces stress, and increases productivity, according to the report. Speaking kindly about yourself, learning to say no, avoiding comparisons with others, leaving toxic conversations, accepting and forgiving your mistakes, and keeping a gratitude journal are all effective ways to cultivate self-compassion.
- Make Healthier Choices (Most of the Time).
If you want a Christmas cookie, have one! We don't believe in living a life of constant restriction, and the holidays are a great time to make small concessions and treat yourself. Simply watch your portion sizes and get back on the healthy train the next day. As a general rule, try to make healthy choices the majority of the time. Remember that too much sugar, salt, fat, and so on can have an impact on your motivation, mood, and energy—yet another reason to indulge in moderation.
Mindfulness practice is an excellent tool for staying present and self-aware. There are numerous apps available that provide short, guided meditations on a variety of subjects to help you center yourself and stay calm during the holiday season.
- Get Enough Sleep.
It may be tempting to stay up late shopping, wrapping gifts, celebrating, and cooking/baking, but adequate sleep is very essential for us to feel our best in mind, body, and spirit and to keep our immune systems strong. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
- Drop the Perfection Mentality.
We all want our holidays to be memorable and meaningful, but striving for perfection will lead to a lot of stress and disappointment. Perfection does not exist, and chasing it will drive you insane. Allow yourself to be okay with having an authentic, "good enough" holiday rather than the "perfect" one. We guarantee you'll have a lot more fun.
Reduce your expectations. Another way to protect your mental health this time of year is to set realistic expectations. We can certainly strive for a great holiday, but it's important to recognize that it won't go exactly as planned. Furthermore, keep in mind that other people's expectations may differ greatly from yours. So just because you don't think it's perfect doesn't mean that others will.
The holiday season entails spending time with family and friends. We split our time between trying to rest and juggling everything that needed to be done. It's so easy to take care of everyone else while ignoring ourselves when we're being pulled in so many different directions. Even when everything is all over the place, it is very crucial to keep in mind that health and safety should always come first.