Self-care during the holidays can be tricky. The routine changes, the junk food is plentiful, and society creates a whole lot of pressure for perfection around this time – all of which can spell disaster for self-care if you aren’t really deliberate about taking steps to keep that self-care process intact. Here are a few tips for doing just that:
Stay active. I have a workout regimen, and I am dedicated to it. But the second that my schedule changes, my workouts are some of the first things to slip. This ends up making me feel yucky about my body, which tends to snowball into feeling yucky about myself in general, and it’s just a slippery slope from there. So I make sure to have a plan. If I don’t think I’ll be able to get a full-up workout in, I carve out time to at least go for a brisk walk; the combination of activity plus fresh air and being outside in nature tend to do wonders for me overall. If the weather is crummy and I can’t get outside, I have to work a little harder to get activity in. There are a ton of videos on YouTube that I check out to get a workout in if I can’t get outside, and I have no issue finding one that will keeps my attention (make it fun!) and my heart rate up.
No matter what you do, have someone you know you’ll be with keep you accountable – maybe they can even take a walk or do the workout with you! If you don’t feel like being that vulnerable with anyone you’re with, tell a trusted friend what your plan is and have them keep you accountable via chat/text/email/a phone call.
Hydrate. I am a big tea drinker – specifically red rooibos tea. It is good for me, and I tend to down a ton of water in the process. But I realized over Thanksgiving that it was far easier to reach for the wine or soda that was readily available than to make my hot tea or drink water. I ended up using a tracker on my phone to note how much water I had consumed; it gave me a goal to pursue even if my normal hydration was off-kilter. (I’m not saying avoid alcohol and soda, but hydrating with the good-for-you stuff is an important part of balance. If you find that you’re experiencing depression during the holidays, however, alcohol may not be the best thing for you to consume, so keep that in mind.)
Pace Yourself. Whether we’re talking food or activity, pace yourself. I look forward to the food and drink of the holidays all year long. For that reason, I refuse to deprive myself, but I also am careful to eat and drink in moderation. I get to enjoy the goodness that only comes out this time of year, but I don’t hate myself for eating or drinking to excess. Same for activities – there are tons of places to go, people to see, and things to do, but if you try to do too much, you can wear yourself out and end up feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation. Don’t overschedule yourself, and don’t be afraid to step back when you need to. It isn’t selfish; it is part of taking care of yourself.
Take a Nap. Along the same lines as pacing yourself, the routine change of the holidays might mean that you actually have time for that nap you never seem to get. Take it. Enjoy it. But don’t overdo it – if you’re struggling with depression, a nap can turn into spending the entire day in bed, and that isn’t going to help. But if you have the chance to get some rest, by all means, take advantage of it!
Manage Expectations. Most families have some level of dysfunction to them, but the holidays can set many people up for a whole world of disappointment if they go into family time expecting things to look like a Hallmark movie. Go in with your eyes wide open; this includes watching for the tendency for everyone to fall into years-old dynamics. You and your family members could all be mature adults, but you may instantly fall into the same relationship dynamic you had when you were kids as soon as you get together. If you find that this is happening, step back and consciously work to change the dynamic. It can be exhausting, so watch your energy level, but it can also have a big, positive impact on how your family interacts. Additionally, if you go in with a clear, realistic picture of what you expect from your holidays, you won’t have to cope with the emotional toll of overwhelming disappointment if you haven’t set an impossibly high standard.
I love this time of year; it is by far my absolute favorite. I genuinely wish that I could take time off from my battle with depression in the same way that I can take time off of work, but it just isn’t that simple. Since that’s the reality, let’s make the best of the holidays, taking care of ourselves and kicking off the new year right!