While the holidays are exciting, fun, and joyful, they can also be hectic and stressful. It can be easy to put aside the things we do to take care of ourselves, the little “me time” we spend to reset and recharge. You may feel like you don’t have time or just can’t be bothered, but it’s important for us, especially during this time of year, to engage with the things that center us mental, physically, and soulfully.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 38% of people feel increased stress levels during the holidays, and only 8% of people say they feel happier. Financial concerns, work pressures, deadlines, loneliness, family dynamics, travel, organizational frustrations, and expectations all mount during the holiday season. These things can put a strain on anyone. This is why it’s so important to take care of ourselves during the holidays.
If you don’t already practice meditation, it is a great way to reduce stress and practice mindfulness. Meditation can offer you perspective and recognize your negative thoughts and behavior, allowing you to let them go. It helps increase your level of calm and take a break — it also helps you mentally reset and find your center.
The great thing about meditation is that there are several ways to practice it, making it an easy, flexible exercise you can do anywhere. You can do a meditative dance, a walk, yoga, drawing, or just sit quietly with your eyes closed.
Don’t know how to meditate? No problem, there are tons of meditation apps out there that can help you find the practice that works best for you (Insight Timer, Calm, Headspace). If you’re religious, remember that prayer is also a form of meditation. If you already meditate regularly, maintain your practice throughout the holidays, maybe even increase it, if you feel the need.
You probably saw this one coming, but exercise is a deeply important way for us to practice self-care. It allows us a physical release from the stresses of the holidays and it helps increase your energy levels.
This doesn’t mean you have to be hitting the gym every day, it can be as simple as a walk around the park with your friends, maybe park a bit further out from the store while grocery shopping, or take the stairs instead of an elevator. A regular walk can help stave off depression and anxiety, while boosting a sense of wellbeing. Regular exercise will also help you sleep better at night and get better rest.
Again, there are many ways your exercise can look: yoga, dancing, swimming, tai chi, etc. It’s important to find the things that work for you and maintain the practice throughout the holidays.
We know it’s a bit chillier this time of year, but spending time outdoors does wonders for the soul (as well as your mind and body). Research shows that just two hours in nature a week can have positive effects on your soul.
It allows you to reconnect with nature and the earth, as well as offer a sense of verve and liveliness that can get lost when we spend too much time insulated in our homes and shopping centers. It offers you a moment of mindfulness and can provide us a moment to practice gratitude and release negative thoughts.
So find a park that you like, or your favorite trail to walk along and breathe in that fresh air, listen to the trees and leaves, and feel the breeze on your face.
You may have noticed some similarities and overlap between these three practices, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise either. The mind, body, and soul are all interlinked, and what’s good for one is usually good for the other, and has a ripple effect through your overall wellbeing.
We know that what is actually self care can often look and feel self-indulgent, but it’s not. As stated by the International Self-Care Foundation: “Self-Care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.) socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.).” So find the different ways self care looks for you, and maintain your practices throughout the holidays. You won’t regret it.