The holiday season is upon us and although it is a time of joy and excitement, it can also be a time of stress and overwhelm. Whether it’s due to the holidays, year-end deadlines or finals in school, it is important to put self-care on the list of “gifts” you give yourself. Self-care is not selfish or indulgent. Self-care is taking care of your body, mind and spirit so that you can live a full life and have energy to give to others at work and at home. The good news is even during this busy time of year, there are many ways we can take care of ourselves without adding to an already long to-do list. Try these 12 free gifts you can give yourself for a more enjoyable and less stressful season.
12 Gifts to Give Yourself!
- Fresh air! As the days get colder and shorter we tend to stay inside more. Studies show one of the best ways to ward off seasonal depression is to get out in the daylight for at least 15 minutes a day. Bundle up and go for a walk around the block. Not only is the light good for you but the walk is an added energy booster!
- Breath. When we are feeling tense and hurried, we tend to hold our breath and breathe from the neck up. Slow down for a few minutes and breathe deeply into your abdomen. Allow the exhale to be long and relaxing. Use this anytime you feel stress mounting, even in a long line at the store!
- A kinder, gentler “inner voice”. Pay attention to your inner dialogue. If your inner voice is judgmental, critical and belittling; begin challenging it with kinder, encouraging words. So often we berate ourselves in a way we would never talk to anyone else. Changing this dialogue can help us relax.
- Treats. There are so many special foods that are associated with the various holidays and most are indulgent! A treat is only a treat though if we only eat it occasionally. Decide what you like the most and plan when to have those treats. While eating every indulgent food we come across during the month will make us feel sluggish and cause weight gain, adding treats mindfully is a wonderful way to celebrate the season!
- Laughter. This is a season of joy but when we feel stress it is easy to lose our sense of humor. Find reasons to laugh – watch funny videos, share funny stories or whatever it takes to make you laugh. Studies show it is a great way to stay healthy!
- Rest. As the list of to-dos’ get longer, it is tempting to sleep less to catch up. In addition. there are more social engagements that might throw us off our schedule. As much as possible make sleep a priority. Everything is easier when we are rested including our ability to stay healthy.
- A “permission slip.” Write yourself a permission slip to not have to “do it all” or at least not “do it all perfectly.” Prioritize what is most important to you and either let go of the rest or get help doing it. Is it worth a night’s sleep to make the 12 kinds of cookies your grandmother made? If so, then find a way to cut back on something else or get a group together and share the baking.
- Joy. What brings you joy? Make a list of big and little things. For example, if singing brings you joy, make time to sing. Find at least one joyful thing to do each day, even if it only takes a minute. And to savor the joy, take a picture and make a “Joy” folder in your cellphone.
- Movement. If walking from store to store in the mall is the only movement you are getting, find a way to move more. Again, this does not have to be a huge time investment. Walk around the block, put on music and move around or whatever works best for you. Just get the blood moving and your energy will lift!
- Nourishing food. Our bodies need energy and one way to fuel our body, mind and spirit is with food that is nourishing. As the season gets busier it is tempting to eat more fast food. The good news is there are many more fast food options that are healthy and nourishing. Also, many grocery stores also offer premade fresh options and some now offer delivery making it easier to save time. In addition, soups and stews can also be made ahead in big batches and frozen which can sustain us on busy nights.
- Plenty of water. Although we typically think of summer as a time to increase water consumption, winter is equally as important. The dry heat is dehydrating, and we can become exhausted when we are dehydrated. In addition, we tend to increase caffeine when the days get shorter and consume more alcoholic beverages at holiday social events which are two more ways to become dehydrated. Many times, when we are feeling tired or hungry. we need water. Fill a large water bottle and drink up!
- Support. Feeling overwhelmed, lonely or stressed? Reach out to a caring family member, friend, support group or another source of support. The holidays can be hard for many and it is important to share your feelings with others who care. If you just need to vent, let the person know and get it out!