Incorporating self-care can be difficult anytime of the year. Throw in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and it becomes even trickier. If you’re looking to treat yourself this holiday season, check out these five simple tips that help me practice self-care throughout the holidays and beyond.
Be the customer and the provider.
Whether it was due to a lukewarm meal, an incorrect order, or a long wait time, I occasionally dealt with dissatisfied customers during a former food service job. Sometimes, what I thought would make up for the mistake — a new meal, a drink on the house, or a gift card — was not what the customer had in mind; my assumption only increased conflict. These experiences taught me to always ask the customer what they wanted as repentance instead of automatically assuming the remedy to their dissatisfaction.
Similar to being flexible in pleasing those customers, I’ve also learned to be flexible in self-care. I used to think of self-care as bubble baths and ice cream, but in reality, self-care is very fluid. It is whatever I need in that moment of vulnerability. When I was in the mindset of thinking that the same few actions would always make me feel better, I became frustrated because those actions didn’t always make me feel better. Sometimes, a bubble bath is just what I need. Other times, I may need a hug, a chill night on the couch, a home-cooked meal, or a chat with my mom instead.
Make a list of activities that help you feel happy and relaxed. These can be anything from the extravagant (spa day, dinner at a fancy restaurant, road trip) to the mundane (try a new recipe, re-read a favorite book, make a craft). Whenever you’re in need some self-care, pick an activity off the list that feels right for you in the moment.
During the rush of the holiday shopping, baking, and social events, I sometimes find myself being lazy with my food choices. In order to feed my body the balanced diet that it needs to function amongst the holiday chaos, I try to make eating simpler for myself by:
- Stocking up on foods that are easy to prepare: canned beans, canned and frozen vegetables, microwavable rice and grains, pre-sliced produce, pre-portioned snack foods (yogurt, hummus, nuts).
- Meal-prepping on a day that I have extra free time: By making meals in bulk, I have something quick and nutritious to eat on days when I’m too busy or tired to cook.
- Never depriving myself of food: I don’t need scientific proof to know that food restriction usually only ends up backfiring in the long-run! I try to eat regularly throughout the day (every 3-5 hours), and eat a balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein at every meal and snack. This applies even to days that are preceded by rich holiday dining!
Even outside of the holiday season, I often feel like there are just not enough hours in the day, which can lead to compromised sleep time. However, I know that I’m not at my best when I’m sleep deprived. I make sleep priority by taking a few simple steps, which are listed in the graphic below.
Make a plan & set realistic goals.
This concept is especially applicable to the holiday season since there are numerous activities and obligations. By setting goals for everything I need to accomplish, I can relax into the tasks at hand as opposed to becoming stressed and frustrated.
During my training to become a dietitian, I learned to craft goals using the SMART technique. In my classes, this technique was often applied to goals surrounding nutrition and health; however, I find it to be a useful organization tool for every day life. Broad goals can be overwhelming and frustrating to complete, while SMART goals seem more achievable because they lay out the events/actions that must take place to reach the goal.
Some examples of holiday and self-care SMART goals:
- Spend thirty minutes planning the holiday dinner menu at least three days this week.
- Bake two-dozen gingerbread cookies on three different days this month.
- Go to bed by 9 PM at least four days this week.
- Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables at least five days this week.
It’s important to keep in mind that just like self-care is fluid, life is also fluid. I can plan as much as I want, but sometimes events just don’t turn out how I desire, which leads me to my next point.
Even when I have a plan and do the best I can, sometimes I can’t help but to fall short of expectations and feel disappointed. This is where self-compassion is really important.
A simple action that helps me to practice self-compassion is journaling. It can be hard to rationalize taking time to do this amid the holiday chaos, but the positive impact of spending even just a few minutes to process my thoughts and feelings with pen and paper is worth it. It clears my mind so that I can focus on and enjoy the present.
In addition to simply writing down my thoughts and feelings, one quick and easy journal exercise that I do when I need some self-compassion is as follows:
- Write down thoughts and feelings without judging them or trying to change them.
- Write down the worst-case scenario that could occur.
- Write down the best-case scenario that could occur.
- Write down a realistic solution (if there is one).
- Read back through what was written.
No matter the situation, I keep in mind that I am an imperfect human doing the very best I can. It’s okay to feel all of the feelings — frustrated, disappointed, sad, angry, etc. All feelings are temporary, so this will pass.
Hopefully, keeping in mind these basic concepts will help you to care better for yourself so that you can fully enjoy the holiday season. How do you partake in self-care? Leave a comment below!