Self-care during the festive season

How to get in some self-care during the holiday season

Look after your self-care during the holiday season
Look after your self-care during the holiday season — Photo by Pexels

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

Take time to relax during the holiday season -
Take time to relax during the holiday season — Photo by Pexels
  • 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

Good self-care includes taking in a balanced diet and adequate fluids
Good self-care includes taking in a balanced diet and adequate fluids — Photo by Pexels

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

Aromatherapy oils are great stress relievers
Aromatherapy oils are great stress relievers — Photo by Pexels

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

Visualisation can help reduce anxiety
Visualisation can help reduce anxiety — Photo by Pexels
  • 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.


Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

40 thoughts on “Self-care during the festive season”

      1. I have *all* my shopping done! And just one card to post! How’s about that for clued-in?
        By the way, my total number of presents = 0, my total number of cards = 1 🤣

  1. I love to give gifts. I dislike receiving, I always feel awkward and uncomfortable. I rarely have money for the holidays and so the gifts I do buy aren’t extravagant and quite often are handmade. I’ve come to discover that handmade gifts are poorly received, which is unfortunate 🙁

    I’m also very grateful that I’m not pressured to spend these holidays with family. I should say “certain” family. It has helped my anxiety more than I could have imagined!

    1. Oooh, handmade gifts are lovely 🙂 I absolutely love when the boys and their wives make chocolates, chutneys or spice rubs etc.
      I’m glad you don’t feel pressured to spend time with ‘certain family’ any more. Who needs them around? 🙁 It’s so much easier to be able to choose who you spend your time with isn’t it 🙂 x

  2. Helping others to the best of our abilities is relieving and uplifting…
    Forgiveness and compassion remind me of a book called the return to love by Mariana williamson…

  3. Great tips and very important for this time of year! I especially love the aromatherapy idea… I love to use incense for this too!

  4. Your post is such a great reminder, Caz. So, as I was digesting that thing about family feuds and who sits where (I did have chuckle at that one) and sniffing lemons, I thought I would duck out the back and have a look a the citrus tree I have resurrected. Turns out it is a Key Lime. Then I went – ooh the mint is looking fantastic and we recently bought the most fabulous rum. So, a mojito in the near future is looking good.

    I actually sat out on the patio this morning at 4am as the sun was starting to make an appearance. It was still 24C and a bit humid. Then I started watering the garden after a nice cup of tea.

    Linda spends days and days wrapping presents – she is good at finding them and superb at wrapping them ( a former florist you see).

    Anyway, I pulled out the guitar this morning and sang quite a few Christmas songs and finished with Judy Garland’s Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. It is a great song from a great movie (Meet Me in St Louis).

    1. Wow, I love mojitos, particularly with home grown mint, and you’re so lucky to have key limes and other fruits, herbs in your garden. When I lived in my house, I loved having fresh herbs and salad stuff in the garden and I miss it. However, I do get to grow it in our grandchildren’s garden, teaching them about planting etc. Enjoy it while you all can Sean 🙂 You lucky things, thing the sun!

      Oooh, I’m with Linda, as I love wrapping gifts nicely with bows and bells and sprinkles inside so they go everywhere when people open them. How cool, singing along to your guitar. You should record one of your Christmas songs and post it on your blog. Cheer us all up x

  5. Oooo, hot chocolate! So holiday-appropriate and also so comforting. 😋 But seriously, this is a great list. Holidays can be stressful in the best of years and this year has been extra confusing. We need our self-care!

    1. Hey Nick and Lucy, thank you for stopping by and leaving your comments. Of course I’ll be taking a look at your blog and really looking forward to reading your take on mental health.

  6. Thank you for the timely reminder. Its particularly hard this year since we don’t get to spend it with our family and we have to be indoor with our little one, avoiding the shopping crowd.

  7. Thank you so much for posting this and bringing awareness to mental health. This all too often neglected issue needs care, just like our physical bodies. It’s unfortunate that a season that is meant to bring peace can cause so much anxiety.

  8. Aromatherapy massages possess a miraculous power of healing and are utilized for relieving stress by performing various kinds of relaxing treatments to the human body. Aromatherapy massages are beneficial for people, for innumerable reasons. These kinds of treatments improve blood circulation, calm the nervous system, strengthens or relaxes muscles, ease aches, cramps and severe pains in joints and muscles. In basic terms, massage is a way of stroking the body, with variations in the length and depth of strokes.

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