The holidays make for one of the most stressful times of the year. You have all your everyday obligations, work, family, caring for extended family, paying your bills, and taking care of everyday needs. It would be nice if when the extra work of the holiday season comes you could just swap the more mundane responsibilities for those that are fun, but you don’t get to do that. Instead, you add in cooking holiday meals, shopping for food and gifts, entertaining, extra social and school events, and wrapping presents to everything else that needs to be done.
It’s no wonder we all feel rushed and stressed when November rolls around. Women, not surprisingly, feel this stress more disproportionally than men according to a study on holiday stress. Women, the study found, take on more of the holiday-specific tasks such as decorating, shopping, and cooking. They also have a harder time relaxing during the holiday season and are more likely to fall into bad habits, including comfort eating.
To find out ways to practice self-care during the holiday season, I asked nine women for their ideas. This is what they said works best for them:
Give yourself permission to take care of you. As women we often put everyone else’s needs and wants ahead of our own. We feel guilty if we take time for ourselves or have our own needs come first. In order to practice self-care, you have to consciously decide to put yourself first sometimes and see that your needs are met. — Joy
Meditate. Sit quietly, even if only for 10 minutes, and take deep breaths. Focus on feeling your abdomen expand and contract. Close your eyes and breath in for 10 second, hold it for 10 seconds and then slowly release your breath. Just 15 minutes can help you feel relaxed all day. — Kathi
Find shortcuts. Shop online rather than fighting the crowds at the mall. Order take-out on evenings when you have special events to attend. Pay someone to wrap your presents. Buy refrigerator cookie dough rather than making cookies from scratch. Allow yourself to use shortcuts if it means reducing some of the stress of the day. — Liz
Be choosy. You don’t have to go to every holiday party or attend every holiday event. Choose the ones that fit into your schedule and your life. Don’t feel guilty about the ones you don’t attend. When you are choosy, you tend to pick those that you know you will enjoy. This includes being selective about who you spend your time with. If there are people who are toxic to your life, choose not to be with them. Spend time with those who lift you up rather than bring you down. — Ginger
Lower your expectations. We can sometimes get caught up into trying to create the “perfect” holiday. There’s no such thing. You don’t have to have a tree that rivals the one in the department store window or a dinner that tastes like it was cooked by a famous chef. Focus on what is important to you and work to include that into your holiday celebrations. — Sandie
Practice gratefulness. Start each day by thinking about three things you are grateful for in your life. Whenever you are feeling stressed, sit down and focus on the good things in your life. By focusing on gratefulness, you learn what is important to you. — Susan
Make time for yourself. Enjoy an evening where it is you and a glass of wine. No children, no spouse, no noise. Take time to enjoy your own company. This gives you time to unwind and recharge. — Denise
Make a budget. One of the biggest holiday stressors is the financial one. You might worry that you are spending too much money, but feel cheap if you don’t buy someone the gift they desperately want. Decide in advance how much money you feel comfortable spending and that won’t cause you stress in January and then stick to your budget. It might be hard to pass up the perfect, and too expensive, gift, but lowering your anxiety levels is worth it. — Anne
Eat healthy. During the holiday season, it is easy to grab dinner on the run or make an unhealthy dinner because it is quick and easy. But eating unhealthy foods can increase stress levels. It’s important to take care of yourself physically. — Jeannie
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.