Self Care During the Holidays

Holiday season is hectic. Big events, parties, traveling, houseguests, shopping, cooking…The list of extra things we need to do explodes. The urge to fully enjoy the holidays, and to give our family and friends great experiences, can cause us to put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We try to keep up with our regular responsibilities and do all that extra stuff. And while we would hope that spending time with family would be positive, it isn’t always; sometimes it can be stressful and upsetting.

All of this means that the holidays are an especially important time to think about self care. Here two keys for keeping yourself well through this joyful-yet-stressful time of year: routines and boundaries.

Don’t Abandon Your Routines
When you travel, or you have a house full of guests, your normal schedule pretty much goes to the dogs. The same is true if you’re making appearances at parties night after night. While it can be tough, try your best to keep up with your normal self-care routines.

Stick as close as you can to your usual sleep schedule. If traveling, melatonin can help reset your internal clock so you can sleep normal hours despite a time change.

The holidays are a time to indulge, but don’t totally abandon your normal eating habits. Have a huge piece of pie for dessert, but not for breakfast the next day. Don’t bypass the green veggies at the buffet table. And don’t skip meals before a big dinner feast; your blood sugar might drop and make you feel lousy, or you’ll end up overeating and also feeling lousy.

If you normally make exercise, meditation, prayer, or some other practice a part of your daily routine, don’t skip it entirely during the holidays. You’re bound to miss a few days here and there, but try not to ditch your practice completely between Halloween and New Years.

Set Boundaries With Family Ahead of Time
Negotiating family time can be tough. Marriage, divorce, and blended families can all mean having to make more than one stop on a holiday, or scheduling time to celebrate with multiple family members. There’s also the matter of visiting or hosting house guests, handling family disagreements, and dealing with difficult family members. The key to it all is (gently but firmly) setting boundaries.

Don’t let the family completely dictate your schedule, or you could end up eating Thanksgiving dinner four times in one day. Figure out what you can manage without exhausting yourself and let family know when, where, and how you can be part of their celebrations.

Let visitors know about house rules: if the kids need to go to bed by a certain time, or you have work obligations that prevent you from playing tour guide, let your guests know before they arrive. This manages everyone’s expectations and can get you ahead of possible disagreements.

Not everyone is able to spend the holidays with their family of origin, and that’s okay. You may, for various reasons, not feel safe or welcome with your blood relations, and the way we usually talk about family and the holidays might have you feeling guilty. Know that you never have to feel bad for doing what you need to do to care for yourself. If that means celebrating with your chosen family instead of your family or origin, that’s okay.