How to get in some self-care during the holiday season
Most of us know how stressful and exhausting the festive season can be, and we tend to forget about our much-needed self-care.
Anecdotally, it’s known, at least by anyone who has extended family, that more stress-inducing grudges are formed during holiday seasons than at any other time of year. Old family rivalries, arguments, one-upmanship, split families and unresolved conflicts can all contribute to holiday anxiety.
Other sources of stress might be political (think Brexit or Trump) or cultural clashes caused by generational or even geographical differences, which can result in slightly tense atmospheres or even furious rows over the dinner table.
Fortunately, my family has managed to avoid any of the above and boy am I glad. I’m not sure how I’d cope. Let’s face it, we don’t need any of that, we’re already exhausted by our
extra-heavy workload prior to the festive season
- writing lists and cards before the last post. Buying and wrapping lots of unwanted gifts – tho’ I’m told I good at getting them right.
- planning the menu, the huge unnecessary food and drinks shop because the stores are all shut for — uh, one day! Oh, and not forgetting that Aunt Annie’s a vegan, little Guy’s gluten-free and niece Natalie is allergic to nuts.
- planning who’ll sit where to avoid any old family feuds, tho’ I wouldn’t worry about it too much — they’ll have to pull crackers, wear silly hats, and smile — like everyone else.
- table decorating – is huge now – you see everyone posting ‘my amazing Christmas table on Instagram and Facebook – what’s all that about? While I love my table to look festive and special, not sure my pals want to see ten photos of it – all from different angles.
- being all things to all people at all times i.e. “Mum, while you’re out will you pick up a gift for Aunt Annie from us? Then wrap it and put a gift tag and a ribbon on it too? You’ve always got loads of that stuff.”
Phew! I’m already shattered. So, having done all the above, you’d think you’d be able to relax on the day, right?
Nope! You’ve still got the kids to get ready (remind them about their manners and “yes, you must give bearded Aunty Annie a hug) ………………..”
Right, rewind……. let’s start again. Okay, so I’m a bit late posting this as Christmas is almost upon us and most of you will have done all your cards, shopping and preparation.
What self-care is — and what it isn’t
What is self-care?
Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept, in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others. Self-care tops up our tank and keeps us fuelled.
What isn’t self-care?
It isn’t a selfish act or only about considering our needs; it’s rather about knowing what we need to do in order to take care of ourselves. Thereafter, we’re more able to take care of others too. That is, if we don’t take enough care of ourselves, how can we be in the place to give to loved ones.
How to look after your self-care during the festive season
But, and it’s a big one, you still have a few weeks to get some self-care in, so that you’ll be as relaxed as everyone else on the day:
- if you haven’t already done so, enlist some help: write down who’s doing what on Christmas and Boxing Day, and make sure the kids are involved — delegate, delegate, delegate.
- when the going gets tough, remember the holidays are a time for family, for friendship and spending time together — so what if you accidentally throw out your stock for the gravy (like my mum did at ours one year, to her horror) – use a packet! If you burn the roasties, cut the burnt bits off and hide them with the stuffing or Brussel sprouts – no one will notice 🙂
- enjoy some simple things like go for a walk somewhere calm and soothing —gentle activity such as a 15-minute walk helps your body to regulate its insulin production, which can be disturbed by stress.
- try yoga, meditation or do some gentle stretches to loosen those tight muscles.
- take time out to have a massage or even just get hubby to give you a ten-minute foot massage/shoulder rub.
For an extra boost during the festive season
- Dot your favourite aromatherapy oil around the house — lavender is great for stress. In aromatherapy, essential oils are inhaled using a diffuser, or diluted with carrier oils and applied to the skin for soothing benefits.
- have yourself a long, luxurious bubble bath – small acts of self-care go a long way in helping us feel more positive and energised.
- have yourself a nice hot chocolate (with or without the marshmallows) and snuggle up on the sofa/bed with a good book for a few hours.
- listen to your favourite music and, if you’re feeling up to it, dance like no one can see you, and sing along like no one can hear you.
- catch up with a favourite friend and have a good old belly-laugh, nothing better to get you in the mood and it’s well known that fun and laughter are great stress relievers.
- go to the cinema, the theatre or a comedy show – sit back and relax
- eat mood-boosting foods; a carbohydrate-rich meal can help to boost serotonin levels.
- wind down gradually before bedtime and get plenty of sleep; set an alarm for bedtime and go to bed at the same time each night – to regulate your sleep pattern.
- sniff some lemons (I’m not kidding) – according to researchers at Ohio State University, lemon scents instantly boost your mood.
- and breathe – deeply – out then in, half a dozen times or so – taking just a few moments each day to practice some deep breathing exercises can decrease stress, relax your mind and body and can help you sleep better. Deep breathing is, among many other things, a relaxant, a natural painkiller, it improves digestion and it detoxifies the body.
- Mindfulness reduces anxiety.
- Acupuncture or hypnosis are great for anxiety and stress reduction.
- Practice visualisation for 20-30 minutes.
- a few minutes of gratitude.
Go on – treat yourself – try out a few of the above and let me know how you get on.
Over to you
What other stress relievers could we try (without reaching for the second bottle of Prosecco)? Any tips, please? Perhaps you’re just going to relax all by yourself during the festive period?
Me? I’m looking forward to seeing family, especially the little ones. They’re still only 5 and 3 so they’ll be excited and I can’t wait to see them opening their gifts and playing silly games with us all.
Oh, and what’s your take on gift-giving? I love it- I don’t give to receive, I just enjoy buying and giving gifts.