We don't have to remind you that the holidays can be overwhelming. You might feel yourself being pulled in so many different directions. You might have some awkward interactions with family members. You might feel maxed out socially with all the parties and gatherings. You might feel lonely or have a hard time because you're missing a loved one who has passed or isn't in your life anymore. It's true that the holidays can be so joyful, but they can also take a toll on your mental health.
While this season is all about spending time with family and friends and giving back, it's important to make it a priority to be a little kinder on yourself this time of year, too. You deserve to feel good and enjoy the season. So in the spirit of that, we rounded up a few ideas for self-care so you can treat yourself a little better and relax when things get a crazy during the holidays.
1. Go for a Walk
If you're feeling overwhelmed, you can cool off or calm down by simply taking a walk. The fresh air will do you good, and just getting moving and changing locations can help give you a different perspective or clear your mind.
Chances are if you're so busy or preoccupied, you're probably forgetting to drink enough water. Take a moment to drink a glass and just be still for a bit. It won't take much time, and you might feel better.
Relaxing in a warm bath with the right bath soak and candles nearby can be so soothing after a long day running around. Plus, it's the perfect excuse to get some uninterrupted (we hope) "me" time.
Meditation is an ideal way to combat holiday stress, and it doesn't take that much time to do, either. Just the act of taking some deep breaths and paying attention to your breathing can clear your head. Try the 16-second breath, which was recommended to us by Suze Yalof Schwartz, CEO and founder of Unplug Meditation. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold the breath for four seconds, audibly exhale out for four seconds, and then hold for four seconds.
5. Go Phone-less
Some of the anxiety we get during the holidays can be due to social media. When you're seeing other people's "perfect" holidays, that might make you more depressed or frustrated. Or you might feel too pressured to have a "perfect" holiday. All of that can get out of hand. So try to go phone-less for a few hours or limit your screen time so you can really be present and enjoy the season, without the pressure of Instagram likes.
Okay, yes, a face mask is the ultimate self-care cliché, but don't knock something until you try it. Your skin can go through the wringer during the holidays, so treat yourself to this relaxing ritual. You might be able to soothe your skin, and you're pretty much forced to sit still for at least 15 minutes, so consider this mandatory relaxation time.
7. Take a Nap
The fatigue can get so real when you're staying up late to go to holiday gatherings, waking up early to meal-prep or get your house ready for guests, or just experience some stress-related insomnia. If you can squeeze in a short nap, go for it. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 20 minutes is all you need to feel refreshed and focused.
Pick up your favorite book or the one that's been on your to-read list, and set aside some time to get lost in it. It'll help take your mind off the stressors of the season, and put you in a much better mood.
9. Dance It Out
Pop in some headphones, or turn up the volume high on your home speakers and just dance off any extra frustration, energy… whatever you're feeling. Some studies have found that dance can reduce stress and increase the levels of serotonin (the hormone that can make you feel good).
If you're back home for the holidays, it's the perfect time to see old friends. Now, sometimes this might cause some social anxiety (especially if you're in the habit of comparing yourself to others), but certain friends can also provide a level of comfort. With COVID-19 guidelines in place, it may be hard to see people in person, so why not catch up over Zoom or on the phone?
11. Work Out
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Release that pent-up stress with a good sweat session. Some of the benefits of a workout include an increase in endorphins and improved mood. And don't feel like you need to do an intense HIIT workout; you can also opt for restorative yoga or a shorter run—whatever keeps you moving should work.
Journaling can help you recognize and validate your thoughts and feelings and take control of them. You might have a million things going through your mind, and just the act of writing them down can help you prioritize and organize them.
13. Do a Good Deed
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Giving back can make you feel so much better and give you some purpose. Focusing on others can help you gain a new perspective, and of course, you're providing some much-needed aid to someone and that makes all the difference. Donate food, clothes, or holiday gifts; volunteer your time (if possible with restrictions in mind); or help a family member or friend in need.
14. Cancel Plans
While you can't exactly cancel everything you don't feel like going to, you should feel empowered to say no to things, especially if you feel like you're stretching yourself too thin. Think about your obligations and what's being asked of you, prioritize the important ones, and (politely) excuse yourself from the others.
We've written about the benefits of essential oils before, so we don't have to go into too much detail about why they can be therapeutic, but they really can provide some relaxation, comfort, and stress-relief when you need it the most. Pour a couple of drops into a diffuser and take it easy for a few minutes while you let the aromatherapy do its work.
16. Do a Fun Activity
Don't forget to enjoy what the season has to offer. That might look a bit different right now with social distancing guidelines, but get creative. Bake some cookies, listen to some holiday music, or take a drive around your neighborhood to look at the lights and decorations.
17. Watch a Favorite Show or Movie
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Put on your favorite TV show, or holiday movie to make yourself feel a little better. Nostalgia can be a comforting thing.
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.