Today marks the beginning of the two-week period stretching from the week before Christmas to just after New Years Day. This time period is often fraught with family visits, gatherings, and a departure from your normal routine in favor of special holiday traditions. Holiday gatherings can be stressful whether they are overnight out-of-town affairs or involve hosting many guests at your own home. It can be hard to maintain your self-care routine when you are away from home and/or packed together with family members you don’t often spend significant periods of time with. Plus, with children out of school and (hopefully) having more time off from work, there are a lot of routine changes that come with the next 2 weeks or so.
If you’re anything like me, you heartily enjoy having extra time to spend time with the people you love and do more of the things you don’t normally have time for but it can be overwhelming to recalibrate to a new ‘normal’ over the holidays. Many of us struggle between wanting to do literally every holiday bucket list item and catching up on ten other things to boot while also having time to relax and genuinely rest and sleep in. Lost somewhere in the middle is self-care. So, how can you maintain your self-care routine between various holiday gatherings, breaks, and family time? Here are a few ideas that have helped me and those around me.
Create a list of your non-negotiables.
No matter what the next two weeks are bringing you, it’s important to identify what self-care you need to practice in order to be the best version of you and maintain your calm. A great way to start is by making a list of your non-negotiable items that you will prioritize. Perhaps you aren’t a kind person without a few minutes to yourself with a cup of coffee in the morning. Put that on your list! Identifying a few things you can do during the upheaval of the holidays to maintain some stability and time to care for yourself can be invaluable.
At the same time, try not to make the list so long that you don’t have time for anything else. Consider perhaps two to three non-negotiable items to focus on during the holidays. If it’s hard for you to think of anything specific, try asking yourself what one self-care practice consistently makes your day better or what you do your best to make time for in your busy day during the rest of your year. By intentionally identifying a few things that will help you preserve you self-care routine and health during the holidays, you will help yourself to enjoy the season even more and have the best version of yourself to spend with others.
Let yourself be spontaneous.
I realize that this feels radically different from the previous tip, but hear me out. Once you have a few critical things identified that you will do day in and day out to maintain some stability and order in your life, you can let yourself be spontaneous for the rest of the time. Last-minute invitation to a cookie exchange or random ice-skating adventure? You can say yes! Even if you are normally more of a planner, let yourself enjoy some spontaneity with those around you. After all, it is the holiday season and that only comes once a year. How does this connect back to self-care? Well, part of self-care is nourishing yourself, including your inner child. And play is an important part of that whether it’s making gingerbread houses or watching a classic Christmas movie. It’s important to allow yourself rest and being spontaneous and going with the flow is an important way to do just that. So go out and have some fun!
Extreme generosity and radical kindness are often on display more in December than any other time of year. However, it doesn’t take funding an entire soup kitchen or giving away a brand new car to make a difference in people’s lives. Look for ways - big and small - to give back to your community. Giving to others and practicing empathy are important parts of self-care as they take the focus off of just you and help you gain a broader and healthier perspective. Not only does it give you that warm glow inside, it’s also been shown to increase your life span and make you all-around healthier. So what more encouraging do you need? There are tons of options for how to be generous and giving during this season and year round. Just keep your eyes open around your neighborhood, at work, at religious organizations, and with family and friends for plenty of opportunities to jump in. And remember that your giving doesn’t need to be on giant proportions: even a helping hand in the grocery store parking lot can brighten someone else’s day!
Over the next couple of weeks as the holidays arrive, self-care may look a bit different for you. You may not have time to practice an entire self-care routine and may instead focus on giving and being spontaneous more than usual. However, that is also an important concept of self-care; flexibility! Being able to balance between stability and flexibility is an important skill that serves us well in pretty much all aspects of life. As you head into the thick of the holidays, I wish you all a joyful celebration and a blessed 2022!