As the last leaves of fall reach the ground, the light darkens and the colorful memories of summer and fall get tucked away, it can be a common time to have a case of the doldrums. With the anticipation of the holiday upon us, and a more full calendar, there is potential for the many joys and challenges of the season to lead to added stress, over-full schedules, and less "you time."
As the "to-do lists" get written, why not take the time to write a holiday "sanity saving self-care list" as well? It is often a time that self-care gets quickly pushed aside, yet can be one of the most critical times for small acts of self-kindness that can be a holiday season lifesaver.
This list adapted from from the Mayo Clinic's recommendations for stress and the holidays, could help prevent a slow-cooker recipe of stress and negativity for the season and instead have you feeling more ho-ho-ho and less ho-hum.
Consider trying a few of these small and simple ideas.
Acknowledge your feelings. Even though
the holiday season is a time of celebrations, sadness and grief may accompany the season, especially if you are in the midst of
a personal transition, grieving a recent loss or facing an anniversary of a tough time.
Find time to cry and express your feelings whether it is in the car listening to tunes,
or spending a night with a trusted and
Reach out. It can be helpful to seek out community, religious, volunteer or other social events if feeling lonely or isolated. A friend once reminded me that sometimes the times you "least feel like it, are the times you most need to pick up the phone and connect."
Be realistic. The holidays can be a beautiful time, but also can hold self or outside pressure to try and meet a specific "vision or ideal" of what "should be" vs. "what is." Be mindful as you hear any inner voices of "shoulds, woulds, and have to's" and consider reminding yourself of the "do's", "I could, but DO I want to?, I DO have choices, and what DO I most need?" Leave room for traditions to change shape and stay flexible to order take out instead of making a big meal, skip a party, or create a new ritual.
Acceptance vs. Agreement. Consider sometimes editing what you want to say at gatherings, and saving heavier topics for a different time for discussion, can allow for less stress. It is possible to accept others opinions without needing to agree, and to be aware that holiday stress might be informing their mood too.
Stick to a budget. Creating an intention of what you want to spend on food and gifts this season and following it, can be helpful in avoiding post-season spending regret. Be creative with how you give, maybe giving coupons of your time, making a gift, or drawing names within friends or family to reduce the amount of gifts needed to be purchased.
Plan ahead. Make a list of the things that are the most meaningful and necessary priorities you want to accomplish and break down the tasks in small pieces. Identify specific days for shopping, baking, family outings, time with friends and other activities. Consider removing one or two things from your list this year, you may not even miss them.
Learn to say no. Sometimes less is more, and even more so over the holidays. Over-scheduling can lead to feeling resentful and run down. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity.
Continue your healthy habits. The holidays are a time for some indulgence, but if you equally indulge in getting enough sleep, exercise and choosing some healthy snacks it can be helpful in reducing stress and guilt, and leave you feeling brighter.
Stay close to routine. Staying on track with some of your personal and family routines can help provide structure and familiarity amidst all the novelty and excitement. Routines can be helpful and grounding for people and families of all ages.
Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Even just spending 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may help you feel more restored and able to handle everything you need and want to do. Reducing stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing by taking a walk, taking a bath, reading a book or listening to some favorite music can help you find calm.
Seek professional help if you need it. If none of the above help boost your mood, and you find yourself sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores, it may be helpful to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Taking one or more of these small steps towards self-care or creating your own, could make a difference in how the season feels. What might you try to reduce stress and cultivate more joy and gratitude as winter arrives?
Happy holidays, and happy self-care!