How to prioritize self-care during the holiday season

For many, the holidays are one of, if not the, busiest time The Busiest time of the year. And with so much to do (shopping, holiday parties, school events…the list goes on), it can be hard to find a moment to catch your breath, let alone make time for self-care.

But if you want to start the new year feeling happy and healthy, self-care must be a priority during the holidays. So the question is, how do you prioritize self-care in the midst of all the holiday hustle and bustle?

What is self-care and why is it important to prioritize the holidays?

As we’ve said before, the truth about self-care is much broader than the bubble baths, facials, and #treatyself mentality it’s become synonymous with in recent years. “Self-care is about taking your time and energy and turning it into an activity that focuses on your own mental and physical well-being,” says Maryland-based licensed clinical professional counselor Shelby Milhoan.

And while it’s always important to invest your time and energy in your mental and physical well-being, it’s especially important during the holidays. Why? For starters, “during the holiday season we often focus on the wants and needs of others…[instead of] Our own,” Milhoan said.

And when your focus is on what other people want and need for you (for example, shopping for gifts for your family or attending your friends and neighbors’ holiday parties) and not on what you want and need for yourself, feeling stressed. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, overwhelmed, and burned out.

This stress and overwhelm can affect not only how you feel, but how you act. “If self-care isn’t a priority, stress and tension will seep out and often we won’t,” says Andrea Turnipseed, LCSW, co-founder and executive director of Roots Behavioral Health in Austin, TX. For example, it could mean hitting on your loved ones.

Even if you the love The holidays, if you neglect self-care, by the time the New Year rolls in? You can feel a lot less “Holly Jolie” and more like The Grinch. “Holidays [have] becomes an additional source of stress and overwhelm for many people,” says Amanda Cassill, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist and author. Self-care plan for the highly sensitive person. “Even good, enjoyable events can be stressful and wear on you, making the need for self-care during these windows all the more important.”

Learn what self-care means to you…

Because you are a unique person, your version of self-care is going to be unique as well. For example, “an extrovert might find a walk in a busy downtown area helpful…while an introvert might need some down time or a good book,” Cassill says.

So, the first step to making self-care a priority this holiday season? Defining what self-care means to you. Think of activities that will actually make you feel calm and restorative. For example, do you need more alone time amid holiday obligations—or will spending time with friends and family fill your cup?

An important thing to remember is not to judge your choice of self-care activities based on what you think self-care is “supposed” to look like. “It’s important to know what works for you and what helps you in your relationship and your lifestyle,” says Turnipseed. “Don’t take a bubble bath because a TikTok video says it’s the best form of self-care. You have to find what works for you.”

…and then put those activities on the calendar

The holidays are notoriously busy. It seems like every unscheduled minute or unorganized stretch of time is quickly occupied by another holiday event, obligation or to-do item. So, once you’ve determined what type of self-care activities are going to be most helpful for you? You should put it on your calendar.

Putting self-care on your calendar, like when you make an important appointment, will ensure that you leave space in your day for yourself—and prevent you from scheduling something else in the time you already have for yourself.

“I always encourage people to schedule self-care into their calendars because it’s hard to bump into something that has dedicated time,” Cassill says. “When you do that and someone tries to schedule something, you can politely decline, tell them, ‘Unfortunately, I have a commitment at that time,’ and then decide if you want to try to find an alternative time.”

Stack self-care on top of other habits

If you’re new to self-care, the thought of making time to take care of yourself every day—especially during busy times like the holidays—can seem overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be! Don’t worry about trying to start a whole new habit. Instead, add self-care to a habit you already have there is

“Plan your day and add self-care practices to what you’re already doing,” says Turnipseed “For example, when you finish brushing your teeth, stop and do a short breathing exercise. Or, while you’re sipping your morning coffee, you can practice mindfulness: pause, slow down, and, for 5 minutes, that cup Really feel the sensations of drinking coffee.”

By building on the habits you already have, you can get into the swing of regular self-care. As it starts to feel more like a part of your daily routine, you can expand your practice to a wider range of self-care activities.

Set boundaries and say “no”

“Many people overextend themselves during the holidays at the expense of their own happiness,” says Turnipseed But overextending yourself is the opposite of self-care. What you can do to try and avoid it is to set some healthy boundaries – and learn how to say “no”.

“Boundaries help you love yourself and others without sacrificing your well-being,” says Turnipseed. “This could mean saying ‘no’ to people and activities that don’t serve your mental health, spending time with family, limiting time spent on social media platforms, or reducing the number of holiday events you attend.”

Now, if the thought of turning down holiday invitations or choosing to spend more time alone during this time brings on guilt, remember that you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. And sometimes, saying “yes” to yourself and your own needs means saying “no” to other people—and that’s totally fine.

“Do you feel guilty when you have to fill up your car with gas? No, because your car needs it and if you don’t, you’re going to crash on the side of the road,” Cassill says. “The same is true for your body.”

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