Happy Holidays and Seasonal Self-Care Greetings!

I like “to-do” lists.  They keep me organized, on schedule, and it kickstarts my heart to check something off the lists when complete.  During the holidays, my lists get a bit longer than usual,  but that’s okay.  If it’s on the lists, I will make sure it gets done.  Whether or not you already make “to-do” lists, make sure to put self-care items on your lists this holiday season.

Self-care is not just a catch phrase or a marketing ploy. Self-care can be defined as the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own wellbeing and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.  You know, like at the holidays.  It’s about putting yourself on a routine of taking care of your own needs, physically, emotionally, and psychologically. You have to take care of yourself, or you will not be able to do all the other things needing done.

According to the American Psychological Association, 38% of people surveyed said their stress increases during the holiday season.  Only 38%!  I find the holidays very stressful.  Between the fiscal year-end at work, unpredictable weather, holiday closures, family obligations, and social pressures, our heaping helping of life starts to dribble over the edges of our plates this time of year.  Speaking of overflowing plates, let’s remember the increased opportunities to overindulge in food at the holidays.  Add a potential for increased alcohol consumption, a decrease in sleep as we try to get everything done, and no time for exercise in between. No wonder we are stressed out and not feeling our best.

Here is my top 10 list of self-care tasks that I intersperse with everything else on my “to-do” lists this holiday season:

  1. Connect with friends and disconnect from work. I mean it.  Your work friends cannot be your only friends.  Carve out a good chunk of time to get away from work and interact with others in person.  The importance of human connection in our lives is a lesson learned from the pandemic.  We never know when we might lose the privilege of connecting in person, so let’s not take it for granted again.
  2. Take 10 minutes of quiet time to grieve a loved one lost, followed by 10 minutes of remembering a funny story that involved that loved one. Cry, smile, and laugh.  Feel all the feels.  Where your loved one is now, they are sharing in the moment with you.
  3. Watch your all-time favorite movie again. Turn off your phone, lock the doors, send the kids to the mall, and tell your significant other you’re unavailable.  Give yourself the gift of 120 uninterrupted minutes of watching a reel that’s not real.  Enjoy it as much as you did the first time you saw it.
  4. Enroll in a Pilates class or, if spandex thighs in public are beyond your comfort level, find an interesting yoga or deep-breathing app to download and try in private. The important thing is to try something new that’s just for you.  And, if it decreases stress, increases calm, lowers blood pressure, improves digestion, and supports correct posture, well that’s all beneficial for you personally as well.  That’s self-care.
  5. Show empathy and compassion for someone. Identify an unhappy person you know and reach out.  Empathy starts with understanding you will never fully know everything about what they are going through.  Being connected to others is good for your own mental wellbeing and, when we engage in empathy, we develop skills for emotion regulation which increases our ability to handle stress.  Be the good person and learn from the experience.
  6. Make a spa appointment and the sooner, the better. I don’t personally care for massages, so my spa visits are for facials.  Hydrating, microdermabrasion, brightening, lymphatic, laser resurfacing, LED light, thermage, decongesting, aromatherapy, diamond file, anti-aging.  Yes, to it all.  And the best part is that I can’t multi-task while having facials.  I lie there and do nothing, and it’s okay because it’s on my lists of things “to-do” at the holidays.
  7. Practice mindfulness. This means paying attention to the present moment instead of thinking about what’s next.  Give yourself 30 whole minutes to go outside and walk around by yourself.  Don’t think.  Don’t worry.  And, for crying out loud, don’t plan anything.  Just be.  Look at the slushy snow.  Feel the cool air in your nose.  Follow the sunbeam that’s cutting across the sidewalk.  Be like a dog for 30 minutes and live only for the moment.
  8. Turn on some music and dance like no one is watching. Not only are there great aerobic benefits from dancing, but movement releases endorphins which are natural mood boosters.  So, your mental and physical health will benefit.  Introverted?  That’s okay.  Instead of dancing LIKE no one is watching, dance when you’re sure no one IS watching.  Turn on some tunes and simply move.
  9. Identify a past mistake you made which you cannot seem to let go. Worry about it for 5 minutes.  The late great Coach John Wooden believed, “A mistake is valuable if you do four things with it: recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.”  Eek out all of the benefits you can from worrying about that one mistake for just 5 more minutes.  Then, mark it “done”, and let it go.
  10. Count your blessings. Truly understand and appreciate your blessings which are the most important aspects of your life.  Identify them by name and show your appreciation for them.  Send a thank-you text to a family member for whom you are grateful.  Be a Secret Santa and drop off a gift basket to someone less fortunate than you.  Volunteer at an animal shelter so pets without humans this holiday season can get some hugs. Identify and honor the blessings in your life, for they are many.

As you are working your way through your tasks this holiday season, I hope you sprinkle some of these self-care items onto your “to-do” lists which nurture and strengthen you.  Be good to yourself; you deserve it.  Happy holidays and seasonal self-care greetings to all!

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