When you look at the calendar and see the holidays quickly approaching, what’s your initial reaction? While we tend to think of the holidays as a season of peace and goodwill toward all, in reality, it’s often a very stressful time, especially for parents.
Without having a self-care plan in place, the holidays can become a season that you dread rather than one you look forward to. But having a few effective self-care strategies can help you keep holiday-related stress to a minimum and, more importantly, help you enjoy the things about the holidays that you really love and cherish.
1. Slow Down
The images of crowds fighting for deals at holidays sales is cliché, but it’s all too easy to get swept up in the frenzy of preparing for the holidays — whether in your personal or professional life. Resist the urge to book your calendar full of errands, late night holiday-themed craft planning, and holiday events. Instead, choose to slow down the pace of each day. Slowing down helps you reduce stress, be present in the moment instead of worrying about what’s next on your to-do list, and enjoy this time of year.
Slowing down could look like going home after work to spend time decorating with your family rather than staying late at work. Or how about making time for a quiet morning before work or saying no to an after-work event so that you can have a quiet evening.
If you find yourself getting caught up in the holiday rush, simply take a mental step back, take a deep breath, and remind yourself to slow down.
2. Work Smarter (Not Harder)
This is an evergreen self-care strategy, but it is particularly important around the holidays when to-do lists seem to grow exponentially. Working smarter means embracing tried-and-true productivity strategies that help you be more efficient without sacrificing sleep, time with family, or other important obligations.
When we have a lot to do, our gut reaction is to stay late after work or miss out on sleep to get everything done. But, like rushing around instead of slowing down, working harder instead of smarter only serves to increase the stress of the holidays.
Strategies that can help you work smarter include eliminating distractions; identifying the most important items on your to-do list; minimizing time-sucking tasks, such as frequently checking your email; and focusing on one task at a time instead of multitasking.
3. Maintain Perspective
It’s easy to get swept up into the unspoken neighborhood competition of having a perfectly decorated home or the best holiday party. Try not to get swept up by this, and instead strive to maintain perspective on what really matters.
For example, if having the best decorated home means you have to make extra trips to the store, spend money you don’t have in your budget, and spend countless hours on extra projects, ask yourself if that is the way you want to use your time. If it is, then go for it! But, if it isn’t, it’s absolutely OK to put everything in perspective and aim for good enough rather than perfect.
Your children will still enjoy their time with you during the holidays, and you’ll have eliminated a significant source of stress simply by putting everything in perspective.
Another key self-care strategy to use this time of year is prioritizing how you spend your time. This means identifying what’s important to you when it comes to the holidays and then actively prioritizing which holiday activities you will participate in based on whether or not they are important to you.
For example, if you find yourself dreading going to the annual holiday happy hour at work, you have the power to choose whether or not you want to attend — and, if you do attend, for how long. Instead of giving into the pressure to go and not enjoying yourself the whole time, you get to decide how you want to spend your holiday season.
Taking some time to write down how you want your holiday season to look can help guide you in deciding which invitations you want to accept and which ones you’d rather politely decline.
5. Be Intentional
And, finally, being intentional during the holidays not only helps you reduce stress, but also helps you actually enjoy the holiday season. It’s easy to get stuck in survival mode where you’re just focused on getting all the items on your to-do list crossed off. But then you miss out on the great moments that only happen during the holidays.
Being intentional is another way of practicing being present in each moment instead of letting your mind jump to what’s next or worrying about everything you have to do. Focus on being in the moment, embrace mindfulness, and enjoy the wonder of the holidays unfolding before you.
Julia Marie Hogan is a counselor in Chicago and owner of Vita Optimum Counseling & Consulting, LLC. She also leads workshops and writes on topics related to self-care, relationships, and mental health. Her book "It's Ok to Start With You" is all about the power of embracing your authentic self through self-care. She is passionate about empowering individuals to be their most authentic selves. You can find more of her writing online at juliamariehogan.com.
The opinions, representations, and statements made within this guest article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of One in Five Minds or Clarity Child Guidance Center. Any copyright remains with the author, and any liability with regard to infringement of intellectual property rights remain with them. One in Five Minds and Clarity Child Guidance Center accepts no liability for any errors, omissions, or representations.