It’s the most wonderful time of year, but it can also be one of the most stressful. As Moms, we often put ourselves under so much pressure to create perfect holiday memories for everyone in the family.
But if you want to enjoy your holidays this year, it’s important that you practice some self-care too! It can be so hard to find the time to take care of yourself during the busiest time of the year. Sometimes, we don’t even see the signs that we need some self-care. But there are plenty of simple ways to take care of your physical and mental health during the holidays.
.Here are 25 tips for practicing holiday self-care in order to stay happy and healthy during this busy season!
Why is Stress Bad for You?
Stress is a natural response to any event, and can even be useful in small doses. Stress temporarily raises your body’s level of cortisol (the “flight or fight” hormone) which helps boost your energy levels so you can get through all the items on your holiday checklist.
However, long-term holiday stress isn’t good for anyone. It’s linked to many health problems that can spoil your holiday season, including headaches, insomnia, weight gain, and depression.
Why You Need to Take Time for Self-Care During the Holidays
Focusing on your own self-care is key to keep holiday stress from getting out of hand. During the holidays, prioritizing your own self-care can help you stay sane so that you can genuinely enjoy the season and contribute to everyone’s enjoyment and tranquility.
Self-care means taking good care of yourself, both emotionally and physically. It’s often hard to take the time to practice self-care during the busiest time of the year.
But by taking the time to take care of yourself, you’ll have more energy to spend time with your loved ones and you’ll be able to enjoy the holidays along with everyone in your family.
How to Practice Self-Care This Season to Manage Your Holiday Stress
1. Give up Your Expectations of Perfection
It can seem counterproductive, but understanding and accepting that this holiday season—like all the other holiday seasons that have come before it—will not be perfect allows you to relax and enjoy things as they truly are.
Instead of trying to plan out everything that’s going to happen down to each minute, approach the holidays with a more relaxed attitude. You can’t control what everyone else will do. You don’t want to ruin your day just because something unexpected comes up. So don’t put so much pressure on yourself to make this holiday season perfect!
2. Make a Plan to Manage the Hustle and Bustle of the Season
Take some time to list all your upcoming events, your gift list, and any other items you need to do. This will help you create a plan and stay organized, so you don’t feel overwhelmed during the holidays.
Look ahead to events and tasks that you dread or can you make you feel overwhelmed so you can come up with strategies to minimize the stress.
For example, f you know that going to the mall makes you feel stressed, then don’t go on Black Friday! If you know that spending time with your extended family always turns into an argument, try to plan some enjoyable activities after your get-togethers to recharge and relax.
3. Set Boundaries for Yourself and Others
It’s important to set boundaries for yourself during the holiday season, especially if you’re hosting events or spending a lot of time with family and friends.
Some things you might set boundaries around:
- How much time you’re willing to spend with certain people
- What type of events you’re willing to attend
- What you’re willing to do (hosting a party, cooking a big meal, etc.)
Be honest about your limitations and what makes you feel comfortable. You don’t want to over commit yourself or feel stressed about all the things that you have to do.
4. Set Expectations for What You Are Willing to Do This Season
This holiday season, focus on the things you will do. It’s okay if other people want to make some different choices or have other expectations for how they spend their holidays.
If family members complain about what is going on with your plans, be honest with them and let them know why you’re making these decisions.
It’s okay to say that you can’t afford certain gifts or hosting a big holiday meal this year, but it is also ok to let the people in your life understand why so they don’t feel offended by what you have chosen to do or not do.
5. Take Some Time for Yourself Each Day
Don’t be afraid to make time for yourself, even on the busiest of days. You can turn any ordinary day into a holiday treat by taking some quiet time for yourself each day—even if it’s only 15 minutes.
This doesn’t have to be a trip out of town, or a spa day at the end of your holiday vacation. Just take some time to relax and do something you enjoy!
Some quick ways to enjoy some alone time:
- Take a relaxing bath
- Read a book
- Take a walk outside
- Open your self-care kit to spend some time with things that make you happy. (Here’s how to make a self-care kit)
6. Create a Calm, Stress-Free Environment for Yourself
One of the best ways to take care of yourself during the holiday season is to create a calm and stress-free environment for yourself. You can do this by:
- Making your bedroom a sanctuary free from electronics and other distractions
- Having relaxing aromatherapy candles lit in different parts of your house
- Creating an area where you can do yoga
I can’t work if I feel like my environment is chaotic and messy. It stresses me out too much. I’ve found that simply making my bed can help me feel more in control of my surroundings and help me feel more calm.
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, says of making your bed:
When I was researching my book on happiness, this was the number one most impactful change that people brought up over and over,
7. Take a Break from Social Media
Try checking into Facebook or Instagram just once each day—that way you’ll be able to enjoy the company of your loved ones instead of checking updates on friends’ lives.
Social media can also leave us with unrealistic expectations of what our holiday season should look like! So turn off that phone and put it away for a little while so that you can really focus on the people around you during this special time.
8. Give Yourself Permission to Skip Some Holiday Events
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need a break from the festivities, take one!
Give yourself permission to not be in the mood for certain activities or holiday parties. You deserve time alone, even when everyone else is enjoying themselves.
9. Say ‘No’ to Doing Extra Work for Other People
That seems like such a straightforward decision, doesn’t it? If you’re already busy and someone asks for your help with something you don’t really want to do, then channel your inner Nancy Reagan and just say no.
But “no” is a really hard word for some of us, including me. That “no” seems like it’s just hanging out there so sad and lonely that I’ll rush to feel the silence by adding something like, “Oh, never mind, I think I can do that for you.”
So here’s a technique to say no gracefully that’s worked for me. It’s called the “No Sandwich.”
- Start with gratitude. “Oh, thanks for thinking of me!”
- Throw in the no. “But I can’t help you move this weekend.
- End with resources (“You can hire movers cheaply on the corner for $10 an hour.) or moral support. (“I’m sure you can handle the move all by yourself. I believe in you!)
Phrasing your refusal in that manner takes the focus off of you and why you can’t help and puts the focus back on your requester and sends them on their way to hire movers or ask someone else.
Now, you can take the time you save by saying no and use it for something that makes you happy!
10. Plan Your Exit Ahead of Time
If you have an event you just can’t skip, plan your exit ahead of time. You can announce when you arrive that unfortunately you have another engagement that you absolutely must attend and you’re so very sorry, but you can only stay for an hour and a half.
At the appointed hour, say your goodbyes, grab your coats, and head out to a holiday movie.
11. Redefine Traditions You No Longer Enjoy
If everyone expects you to host an annual event and you just can’t face it even one more time, redefine it into something more bearable. Maybe you can have everyone stop by for a couple of hours for coffee and dessert instead of hosting a full dinner.
If you just can’t even think of how to find the time for your annual Christmas Eve lunch with your best girlfriend, let her know that you’d love to get together after the holidays because this year is just too crazy.
The main thing is to anticipate any issues and make a plan for minimizing them.
12. Talk About Your Holiday Spending Plans with the People on Your List
You might fell you’re the only person worried about money during the holidays, but’s it’s not true. If your gift budget is getting out of hand, have a talk with some people on your gift list. It might thrill them to agree to skip gifts altogether or to take part in a cookie exchange.
Have a conversation with your family as well to find out what’s really important for them this holiday. You might want to forgo gifts this year in favor of one big family experience like a play. Or you could turn the whole thing into a game to see who can give the best gifts on a $10 budget.
Having an honest conversation is the start of more reasonable expectations about gifts.
13. Spend a Day Doing Nothing
Feeling burned out and useless? What would happen if you took a day off from everything you need to do? Would the world end if you bowed out for a day? Why not try taking one day during the holidays to destress and spend an unscheduled day doing anything that makes you happy.
Drive to your city’s major shopping area and walk around looking at the holiday windows. Go ice skating and then end the day with hot chocolate and whipped cream. Spend the day at the movies.
When the day is over, you’ll feel refueled and energized and ready to pick up your responsibilities. You’ll be even more productive after your break.
14. Exercise your stress away
Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel happy, and also releases cortisol, which makes your body less stressed. It’s the best of both worlds!
If you can manage it, schedule in time for a workout at least three days a week during the holidays. Your workout doesn’t need to be intense to provide stress relief. You can lower your stress with an easy walk outdoors or quick yoga session.
If you need some inspiration, check out my article on getting fit over 50.
15. Enjoy the Outdoors
One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is bundle up and go for a long walk outdoors. The fresh air does wonders for clearing my head and lifting my mood.
Try a nature hike at a nearby park or going on a bike ride. Or set up some outdoor ice skating! You can warm up afterwards with a cup of hot cocoa.
16. Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is critical to your mental and physical well-being during the holidays. For some people, it’s one of their most difficult tasks since they are busy running around doing everything on everyone else’s schedule.
Schedule in time for eight hours of restful sleep every night (if you can), or take a nap during the day if that’s more realistic for you. You’ll feel refreshed and much less stressed after a good night’s sleep or nap.
17. Reconnect with Your Spouse with a Date Night
Relationship counselors advise couples to schedule a regular date night in order to stay connected as a romantic couple. But the holidays are so busy that we often set aside our regular plans. And what’s worse, the season can so easily turn into a mass of obligations that you end up attending side-by-side, but not together: work parties, church services, family events.
So take at least one night during the holidays to have a real date night. Dress up and wear your date-night underwear. See a movie or play and talk about it afterward over dessert and coffee. Take some time to reconnect with your partner.
18. Slow Things Down with a Family Movie Night
Carve out time during the holidays to spend an evening together as a family watching a Holiday Movie. Most families have a favorite, but you really can’t go wrong with Elf. Make some popcorn, settle in and enjoy some laughter.
19. Stick to a Plan for Eating Holiday Treats
Many of us feel stressed during the holidays because we want to indulge in our favorite holiday treats, but we don’t want to gain weight from overindulging. You can manage this stress by making a plan for eating holiday treats.
Think about the treats you look forward to the most and make a plan for when you’ll indulge. Knowing you won’t miss out on your favorite holiday foods will help you stick to your plan for eating healthy when you face temptation.
20. Use Your Slow Cooker to Create an Easy and Healthy Meal
I think my kids would have had cereal for dinner every night if I hadn’t had a slow cooker when they were growing up. If you pick the right recipe, you can take 10 minutes in the morning to throw some ingredients in the crockpot and come home that night to a cozy house filled with appetizing aromas.
This easy slow cooker pot roast is perfect for those nights when you’re craving comfort food, but don’t want to put in a lot of work.
21. Ask for Help
Ask your sister to bring her signature Christmas cake (my sister’s Christmas cake is the highlight of my holiday.) Get your nephew serving drinks. If everyone is helping, the party flows better and you might actually socialize with your guests.
Everyone’s happier when everyone helps.
22. Buy Prepared Foods to Save Time and Effort
If you’re hosting a holiday party, save yourself some work by buying some festive prepared foods from your local grocery store or bakery. I found out last year that my sister’s delicious macaroni and cheese isn’t homemade at all; it’s frozen from the grocery store.
I feel like this is cheating, but I’m willing to do whatever it takes for a stress-free holiday season.
23. Sing Along with a Holiday Playlist
Singing gets oxygen in your body, exercises your heart and lungs, and produces endorphins that keep you calm and stress-free. It doesn’t matter whether you can carry a tune or whether people run out of the room when you sing, you’ll get the same benefits. We should all sing – a lot!
Here’s a fun YouTube video with a bunch of holiday songs. You can grab your family together and sing along or do it privately in the car, (that’s where I do my absolute best singing if I say so myself).
24. Try a Deep Breathing Technique
Stuck in the traffic jam from hell? Are you behind someone returning 30 sweaters and buying 20 more? (That really happened to me and I did not handle it well.)
If you feel you’re about to lose it, take a second and practice the absolute easiest yoga technique ever. It’s called Pranayama, or alternate nostril breathing, and it’s basically simply a way to slow down and pay attention to your breathing. No downward dog required and you’ll feel calmer and more centered after a minute.
25. Detach, Detach, Detach
Some stress is unavoidable. If you have a relative who just seems to push your buttons EVERY SINGLE TIME, practice the fine art of observing the situation as a disinterested participant.
For instance, instead of seething with anger the next time your father-in-law shares his political views, try simply observing the situation. Why does he believe the things he does? What happened in his life to bring him to this point?
Becoming a disinterested participant can help you look at the person annoying you as an actual human being, rather than the ogre you built them into inside your mind. It can also help you keep your cool when you might otherwise end up losing control.
26. Practice Gratitude During Those Special Moments
Christmas Eve is the crazy day for me. I prepare an enormous meal for the entire extended family and then my husband, kids and I stay up late opening gifts and hanging out.
I frequently have to get up at 6:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve to start cooking in order to be ready to sit down to dinner at 8:00 a.m. I actually love—truly love—the cooking, but I can still get a bit stressed if things aren’t going smoothly.
In order to slow down and focus on what’s truly important—the time I’m spending with my loved ones—I’ve started taking a moment at the start of our Christmas Eve meal to stop, look around the table and notice that I’m surrounded by the people I love most in this world. I quietly say thanks and savor just how lucky I am that I get the gift of being with the people I love so much at Christmas.
I have no idea, of course, what your day is going to be like, but I bet you’ll have a moment like that too. Maybe when your teenage daughter crawls into bed with you in the morning for a “let’s not speak of this again” cuddle session. Or when your son stands up at the end of a meal and picks up his plate and his grandmother’s plate and takes them to the sink.
When that happens, don’t just notice it. Feel gratitude for that moment. Savor it. Carve it into your heart. Because it’s for those moments we work so hard during the holidays.
Need More Self-Care?
The holidays can be a stressful time, but you don’t need to be stressed out. There are many things you can do to take care of yourself and enjoy the season without feeling overwhelmed or exhausted by all your obligations.
If this article has inspired you to try something new for self-care during this busy time of year, let us know what works best for you!