It’s that time of year — the one where everything is merry and bright, and people are cheerful, and there’s no stress anywhere.
Oh wait. For most of us, I think the holiday reality is something closer to chaos, frenzy, and exhaustion. Frankly, I always love the idea of holidays, but when they arrive, suddenly it’s all about trying to find the presents, making food, arranging schedules, and generally wishing for January 1st.
Maybe it’s the introvert in me, but holidays tend to burn me out. And it’s not for the reason you think. Seeing friends and family is great, that’s not what gets me. It’s being out of my routine that takes its toll on me, and frankly, who of us can one hundred percent stick to our food, exercise, and wellness plans over holidays or vacations?
This year, however, in concert with my quest for minimalism, I’m stockpiling ways to prioritize self-care, even in the middle of holiday craziness. I think we would all enjoy our holidays more if we took great care of ourselves, because we would have more to give joyfully to others.
10 Self-Care Ideas for Holidays & Busy Times
While I know it can be hard to attend to self-care at the peak of holiday events, it’s essential that at some time during the season of chaos you slow down enough to take care of yourself. Here are 10 ways that you can make that happen.
1. Quiet Time
Often times the biggest problem with holidays is that they are loud, frantic, and the opposite of peaceful. Maybe this only applies to introverts, but it can be very meaningful and sanity-giving to carve out some time for quiet each day, even if it’s just a few minutes. Spend a few minutes reading a book in the morning, step out for a few (if you’re not living in completely frigid temperatures), or sit quietly by the Christmas tree at the end of the day.
2. More Sleep
Sleeping in is usually a luxury that most adults don’t get around Christmas or holiday times, especially if they are parents. But sleep can be achieved in the form of power naps, long naps, or going to bed early. It’s not a crime to turn in early on Christmas Eve, or to take a luxurious nap on Christmas Day as a present to yourself. I’m fortunate in that this year, my son is only one, and won’t quite know that he should be excited for a pile of presents. I have the luxury of keeping him on his usual nap schedule for the holiday, but instead of using that time to work or clean, I intend to give myself the Christmas gift of a nap.
Coloring has made a dramatic comeback in recent years, and if you haven’t seen the scores of coloring books aimed at adults, then you’re clearly not visiting any stores, newsstands, or online shops. Coloring books that go beyond kids’ characters are now seemingly everywhere, along with expensive colored pencils that are apparently more gourmet than your basic Crayolas. I’ve kept Christmas coloring books since I was a kid, and have added a few here and there to my collection. This year, I picked up a new one, and have had every intention to color a little each day. My one-year-old had other plans. But as Christmas gets closer, I’m going to carve out time to color. Because I’m stuck in my childhood? Nope. Because coloring, for me, is a very relaxing experience that allows me to turn off my brain from stressors and allow my to awaken the creative part of my brain that, these days, is collecting a sizable amount of dust.
We tend to load up on sweets and treats around the holidays, even ones that are Paleo. But sometimes all of these carbs and sugar can contribute to increased exhaustion and stress, and you can give yourself the gift of energy and blood sugar balance by making sure that you start off each day of your holiday with a nice, protein-rich breakfast. I’ve had a tradition with my husband since we were married to make (Paleo) cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. I fully intend to keep that, but I will also be adding some bacon, eggs, or sausage to round out my protein intake.
Even if you live in Snowy Cold McSnowsville, unless you’re in the middle of a winter storm or a blizzard, you could probably get out of the house for a short jaunt around the block, down the driveway, or up and down the sidewalk a few times. For those of us in cold weather climates, it can easily get cramped or stir crazy inside the house, especially if you’re hosting family or if you’re away from home. Even just a few minutes of walking can provide a needed boost to the mood and can help to refresh the brain for increasing enjoyment of festivities.
Can’t get out the door for a walk? Try some yogic stretching. If you’re not a fan of doing such things with an audience, you can actually do several stretches in the privacy of a bathroom or your bedroom. It doesn’t have to be an official yoga pose to count—just bend, extend your arms, stretch your legs, squat, lean, or otherwise move in ways that help ease tense or tired muscles. This can give you an energy boost, too! Personally, my favorite rejuvenating stretches are any of the warrior poses, but really, anything will do.
While I myself am not a singer on any level, I have been known to sing along to Christmas music or other tunes if the volume is loud enough to hide the sound of my voice. That’s the thing though: I don’t have to actually hear my own voice to experience the relaxing and stress-relieving benefits of singing. If you have a few minutes alone in the car, turn up the radio and belt it out. Or if you’re a singing family, take some time for Christmas karaoke. If you’re not spending Christmas with family, sing to your cat, your dog, or your goldfish. It doesn’t really matter how well or how long you sing. It’s not for a vocal competition, it’s for fun.
Whether you play football on Christmas, or card games, or Super Mario Bros., games can be a fun experience for many, and can typically get the laughter flowing. If you’re not into super competitive games, or competing against others, try playing games where groups compete instead of individuals, or games where it’s very hard to keep a straight face, like Apples to Apples or Balderdash. These days, playing board games seems to be almost old school, but if you have the opportunity to gather friends or family around a game table, it might actually be a highlight of your holiday time. If you’re really not into games, then try a puzzle! One or all can do them, and there are no winners or losers.
While cooking usually becomes a chore during the holidays, or at the very least, not optional, you can make it a relaxing time by choosing something that you really want to prepare, or cooking a dish that’s easy or relaxing. Personally, even though they’re time consuming, I like making homemade cinnamon rolls. I like rolling out the dough, spreading the buttery cinnamon mixture, waiting for the rolls to rise. I almost never want to start the process, but once I do, I realize just how relaxing it is to have a tradition and a dish that takes a little time to prepare.
Christmas can be a time when we get inundated with stuff. But this doesn’t have to be a negative experience! Take some time leading up to Christmas to purge a few items (or many!), and if you have children, teach them to do the same. Out with the old, in with the new is a timeless motto. We can only process so many things before our brains get overloaded, and stuff is included in that. Even if you’re not a super minimalist or a clean freak, it doesn’t take much time to choose three to five things that you don’t love anymore or you’re not using and to donate them or pass them on to someone who will use them.
Self-care during the holidays (or at any time of the year) is never a waste of time. It is, perhaps, especially relevant at a time of year when we are supposed to be focusing on love, joy, and peace most of all.