If the song tells us that this is the “most wonderful time of the year,” then why are so many folks so stressed out? Yes, my dear, I know that with all the demands on your time and attention as the holidays approach, often what gets tossed aside is self-care. Yet, my darling, that’s the last thing that you should be sacrificing.

Because if you aren’t nourished – mind, body, and soul – then it will be practically impossible to enjoy the holidays. Because, darling, not tending your own needs will eventually lead to burnout. No matter what time of year it may be.

Here’s twenty-four things to consider when it comes to self-care during the holiday season (and beyond)

One: Be more compassionate with yourself.

Self-compassion is a vital tool in cultivating a life that is full of contentment no matter what is going on in our lives. That inner critic contemplates the negative and berates us for the mistakes, no matter how minor, and refuses to congratulate if the slightest flaw or wrinkle is apparent. The irony is that while we think being tough on ourselves, towing a strict line, and holding our feet to the fire is beneficial on the road toward success happiness, the opposite is actually true. The quality of our lives is largely due to the way we think we are doing. Self-care demands more self-compassion.

Two: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry… in Moderation

Drink a glass of wine at dinner. Eat the dessert. But don’t finish a bottle of wine or indulge in dessert every night. Ensure that most of your meals are healthy to balance out the holiday treats. And up your water intake as it’s easy to forget that we still need to stay hydrated in cooler weather.

Three: Put your phone down already!

I popped into the washroom after breakfast out with girlfriends, and standing at the sink was a woman leaning over the sink on her phone. Driving to Target the other day I had to change lanes to get out of the way of a reckless driver; glancing over at her, I noticed that she was reading her phone. These are not rare occurrences. The addiction to smart devices is an epidemic, and we miss so much with our necks hunched and our eyes looking down at our screens (not to mention what it’s doing to our bodies).

If putting away your tech is difficult, make a game of it: when you go to lunch or dinner with a group, have everyone pile their phones in the center of the table. The first person to check their phone for anything other than an incoming call, buys for everyone (or buys dessert, or the next round of drinks). At home, consider instituting no-tech nights.

Four: Self-Care Demands You Get More Rest

In the name of self-care, stop burning the midnight oil. Adequate sleep is critical to the way the body and mind function (and there’s lots of science to back that up). Don’t forget that technology can interfere with your ability to sleep well, so no devices in the bedroom!

If you have a job that requires you to be “on call” at the very least enable the features that most new phones have, allowing you to shift your screen colors into a warmer spectrum from sundown to sunrise. It’s easier on the eyes, and the brain.

Five: Schedule that doctor’s appointment already.

Have you been putting off going to the doctor? Make the appointment. Especially if you are worried about what the doctor might tell you. If you are putting off an essential self-care because your doctor shames you for an issue (ie – needing to lose some weight, not dealing with high blood pressure or high blood sugar, etc) then find a doctor with a better bedside manner. You have the power to choose better doctors to serve you.

Six: While you’re making appointments…

All the things you do in the name of “beauty” are acts of self-care. Do yourself a favor and make –  at a minimum  – your next three appointments for each of the ways you beautify your body: hair appointments, nail appointments, massage appointments, and such.

Seven: Speaking of beauty…

I am a no-nonsense gal when it comes to make-up. I can get from shower to full make-up in a half-hour. But a couple of years ago, I decided to invest in myself when it comes to the make-up department.  Though it was a bit of a challenge mentally when I spent $49 on a bottle of foundation rather than the $12 I was spending at the drugstore, I discovered that there is a difference other than cost: quality. While the drugstore foundation lasted about a month, the department store foundation lasted almost six months.

Since then, I’ve slowly but surely upgraded the quality of all of my beauty products. A nice bronzer or blush lasts a year. Those beautiful eye-shadow palates even longer. And, my dear, there is something just delectable in a beautiful and luscious lipstick. (My favorite lipsticks these days are by Charlotte Tilbury.)

Spending some time at the beauty counter may be just the self-care you need. Because when you feel good in your own skin, you’ll feel more confident. And confidence always makes me feel more joyful.

Eight: Use Your Good Stuff. Daily.

While we’re on the subject of the good stuff, wear your good perfume and use your “company” china. Using your good stuff every day sends the signal to your soul that you are valued. Besides, using the good stuff turns and ordinary day into an exceptional one.

Nine: Examine who you spend time with and choose them with self-care in mind

Research reveales that while healthy social connections helps make us happier, they are outweighed by the adverse effects of strained relationships.  Spending time trying with people who can’t give us what we need puts us in the mindset of never being worthy enough for love. We increase our own stress level and add to our own suffering when we reach out to those who are unable to love us as we are. The hard truth is, we can’t force people to change.

For the sake of nourishing your own soul, reduce your time with those who move you further away from loving yourself instead of closer. Choose the people you spend time with, choose to be intimate with, wisely, because they have a significant influence over the quality of your life.

Ten: Boundaries Equal Self-Care

Sometimes the folks that drain your energy or make you feel like you’ll never measure up are folks we can’t avoid: co-workers, family members, service providers. Even if we’ve set clear boundaries in the past, when we’re tired or stressed, our boundaries get lax. Sometimes people will attempt to make you feel guilty or shame you for saying “no”. Their reaction is all the more evidence that you need a boundary with these people. Respect your need for self-care, your sense of self-worth, and your feelings by protecting yourself with better boundaries.

Eleven: Take note of What Activities Do Not Feel Like Self-Care

Did a particular activity stress you out or exhaust you? Make a note on your calendar to say no to that activity next year. That way, you won’t forget how excruciating the office Christmas party was, or how drained you felt after Thanksgiving at Aunt Sally’s.  And while you’re making that note on your calendar, block off at least one day a week next year to have a night at home.

Twelve: Make a List

It’s easy to look at our goals and believe we’ve “accomplished nothing”. Make a list of everything wonderful you’ve done in the last twelve months. Take time to celebrate all your accomplishments – big and small.

Trust me: I know how easy it is to look at your life and see that one thing that’s still outstanding instead of the ten goals you’ve achieved. That’s one of the reasons I use my Bullet Journal to keep not just my “to do” list, but also my “what I’ve done”.

Thirteen: There’s Still Time

You may arrive in December and believe that your goals and resolutions were just a pipe-dream. Not true! There is still time to, if not accomplish a goal, at least make progress. Commit to ushering one of your dreams into your reality by taking that first step towards one of your goals.

You deserve to create the kind of life you desire – and going after your goals in an act in extreme self-care.

Fourteen: Seek Regular Silence

Did you know there’s a correlation between high blood pressure and chronic sources of noise? Perhaps the noise you are around isn’t chronic, but it highlights the power of noise our bodies and soul. In the name of self-care, make space for regular silence in your daily life. Maybe it’s in the car on the way home or the first half hour after you get home. You need some quiet to feel nourished.

Fifteen: Make Space for Reading

The Greeks believed that reading was healing for the soul and research has shown that reading will make you happier. Consider reading as “biblio-therapy” and make space for it in your life. Even if you aren’t a big fan of books, indulge in a favorite magazine or reread a favorite book.

Sixteen: The Gift of Nothing

Give yourself a day without a to-do list. No obligations, no errands, no parties: just a day of nothing. This doesn’t mean you have to lay on the couch or stay in bed the entire day, unless that’s the one thing you most need to do. This is about granting yourself the permission to do whatever you want. Just relax, lose track of time, wander, nap, tinker, play, follow where your curiosity leads.

Seventeen:Savor at least One Holiday Shopping Excursion

Most of the shopping we do these days is either online or in a hurry. The crowds are stressful as is the traffic. Yet, the stores are decorated beautifully and there are always little things offered during the holiday shopping time that aren’t in stores otherwise. Choosing to designate at least one shopping excursion as a savored ritual is nourishing. And don’t forget, window shopping can be fun if you go into it with the attitude of having a few hours of exploring.

Eighteen: Give Without Expectation

Observe what those you care about would appreciate, what would make them feel loved, known, and heard. Let the results of those observations guide you as you decide how to give. Yet, do so in the pure spirit of giving. Choose an “angel” from a tree to purchase a gift for, or volunteer time at your favorite charity. Though it can feel like just one more thing on your to-do list, being generous with your gifts – whether money, talent, or time – can be an act of self-care.

Nineteen: In the Name of Self-Care Buy That Thing You Want

Speaking of shopping, buy that thing you really want – even if – or especially if – it doesn’t seem “practical.” Yes, I’m talking about that pair of shoes you’ve been lusting after, or that floral arrangement you’ve been eying for your dining room table. No, don’t go into debt or buy things that will just add clutter to your world. But if you really want something, stop denying your desires.

Investing in something you desire is an act of self-care and a sign to your soul that you value those desires.

Twenty: Dress to Impress… Yourself

Check your closet to see what you already have and love, and then take advantage of the aptly timed sales going on to finish or freshen your look.  Research shows that what we wear also affects how we feel about ourselves, so as a nod to self-care, buy clothes that make you feel good about yourself.

Twenty-One: Plan a Day of Decorating

You’ve probably done your holiday decorating this year, but go to your calendar right now and make an appointment with yourself for a day of decorating next year. During the holidays, your home can be transformed into a festive holiday sanctuary with pine boughs, stockings hung, and tabletops becoming adorned with festive crimson and white. Knowing that the decor is temporary offers a welcomed change, but also the gift of packing it up for the next season and kicking off the new year with a fresh new home.

Choosing to see decking the halls as an act of self-care AND making the space for it in your schedule will lift your spirits.

Twenty-Two: Try New Things

When opportunity comes knocking, don’t slam the door in its face. True, you may be saying yes to things you don’t want to do during the holiday season, but don’t say no to something just because you’ve never done it before.  You never know when that spark of inspiration will grab your eye, and you find your next new hobby that you couldn’t imagine living without.

Twenty-Three: Listen to Your Gut

The only way to come to trust your gut is to use it.  It is something that most women are more likely to listen to, but following it is often an entirely different thing.  Your subconscious will work for you if you let it and are willing to listen

Twenty-Four: Plan an After Holiday Respite

Okay, let’s be honest, the holidays can be exhausting. Yes, they are lovely and provide an opportunity to reflect, be grateful and truly be present, but at the end of December or January 1st, most of us are ready for life to get back to “normal”.  So why not plan an after holiday respite to look forward to?  This can be a trip or just a few days off to putter around your house. The gift of time and rest is a way to nourish your mind, body, and soul!

Acts of self-care remind yourself that YOU MATTER. And that’s critical especially during the holiday season.

As Audre Lorde would remind us, self-care isn’t the same as self-indulgence. Rather, it’s an act of survival. We’ve all heard the adage about not being able to serve from an empty vessel. It’s true all year long, but especially so during the holidays, when even those of us who are typically laid back find ourselves buying into the hype and unable to resist the annual rushing around.

You, my darling, are a finite resource. Self-care is the way we refill the vessel that is made of our mind, body, and spirit. Self-care, is how we refresh ourselves.

Do you need some strategies to help you make self-care a priority?

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