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Practice Self Care During the Holidays

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If you start to feel tenser around November, you’re not alone. The holidays are stressful for a variety of reasons.

Yes, it’s Christmas,  but it’s also the end of the year. Experts say that makes people more likely to evaluate their lives. If they’re not happy with where they are, it’s tempting to write the whole year off as a failure.

Existential stress combined with holiday stress is a recipe for a self-care disaster. That’s why it’s so important to practice self-care during the holidays.

Read on for seven of the best holiday self-care tips. 

1. Write Down Your Feelings

You may think, “But I don’t have time to write down my feelings! My to-do list is 100 items long!” But you need to feel comfortable naming your feelings.

Repressing feelings is not going to help you enjoy the holidays. It will make you more likely to blow up at a random relative because they took the last snowman cookie.

If you feel guilty or sad, it’s OK. Step away from the hustle and bustle long enough to check in with your brain to see how you’re doing. 


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2. Set Boundaries

You hear a lot about setting boundaries in romantic relationships. That’s vital, but you also must set boundaries with family and friends during the holiday season.

That’s often harder than it sounds. You’ll hear things like “He’s always been like this.”

Someone who says that is saying, “Deal with it, because they’re not going to change.” You can deal with it without accepting it. 

Call out toxic behavior. That might mean mentioning it in the moment, or it might mean refusing to show up to events where the toxic person will be present. Your mental health will thank you. 

3. Release Yourself from Perfection

Your life is not going to look like Hallmark Christmas movie. It will not be perfect, because real things never are. It’s a fantasy used to get people to watch 47 holiday movies between now and New Year’s Eve.

Planning Christmas can feel like planning a wedding. You feel like everything must be flawless, or else somehow it’s not legitimate. Abandon those unrealistic expectations. 

An imperfect Christmas can still be amazing. But you have to try and laugh when things go wrong, not panic and assume everything is now ruined. 

4. Get Some Exercise

Why are gyms so crowded in January? Probably because so many people feel bad about avoiding the place in December. 

Research shows that gym memberships increase 12 percent in the new year. Spending time exercising now will mean you won’t have to feel awkward when the calendar changes.

This doesn’t mean you must run a marathon on Christmas Eve. It does mean you should take walks or bike rides. Even a couple of sessions a week is good for your mental and physical health.

Exercise centers you at a time when many people feel like they’re getting pulled in every direction. Healthy eating before your holiday parties can also make a difference. 

Holiday Self Care

5. Stay Hydrated

One of the best tips for the holidays is also one of the simplest: Drink your water.  

You know you need water every day of the year. But it’s easier to forget when you’re rushing from party to party or mall to mall. 

Drinking enough water ensures you’ll look and feel your best when you go to Aunt Susan’s house on Christmas Eve. It’s fine to drink some eggnog or spiced cider, but don’t forget to keep a glass of water next to your mug. 

The most obvious symptom of dehydration is simple thirst. If your urine is dark yellow, that’s another sign that you’re not getting enough water.

There’s a lot of stellar holiday food, but don’t eat unless you can also pay attention to your water intake. If you get a headache or feel dizzy, grab some ice water and sit down before you resume your feast. 

6. Enjoy the Moment By Unplugging

Sure, social media may let you stay in touch with old friends who live far away. But what if all those old friends all seem to be having a picture-perfect holiday season while you’re barely hanging in there? 

Constantly staring at your social media feeds will make you feel inadequate and frustrated. Remember, they’re cultivating an image and posting to Facebook. You’re not seeing what happens behind the scenes.

It’s hard to practice gratitude for what you have if you’re comparing it to what someone else has. Put away your phone and practice good mental hygiene during the holidays.

If you want, you can write down good things in your life. Or you can take a moment to look around you and count the people who care about you. 

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7. Create Your Own Traditions

One of the most insidious holiday phrases is “But it’s tradition.” Some traditions are nice, like baking cookies and watching old Christmas movies with people you love.

But not all of them are nice. The tradition canard can also be a way for you to feel like you have to do something, even if it makes you uncomfortable or stresses you out.

Your mom might expect you to spend a week at her house for Christmas. But if you just started a new job and don’t have enough paid time off, that’s OK.

It’s also OK if you’re up for a three-day visit but not a whole week. If you’re simply not up for travel at all, don’t get mad at yourself.

Stay in your current town and start a new tradition or two. If you want to go to a 24-hour diner on Christmas Day instead of cooking a ham, then do it. But prepare for lines, because it turns out a lot of people get tired of cooking by then. 

Just because you did something when you were 18 doesn’t mean you have to do it when you’re 28 or 38. 

Self Care During the Holidays

A popular holiday saying says, “It’s better to give than receive.” Yet self-care during the holidays means you also have to give some things to yourself.

Being selfless is admirable, but you shouldn’t turn yourself into a martyr during the holiday season.