If you’re active on social media, you’ve probably seen self-care memes and quotes floating around. While it may seem like a trend, self-care is improving the quality of life for many––especially those who understand how to use it. A 2018 study found medical students who practice self-care reported less stress and a higher quality of life. The good news is you don’t have to be a medical student to reap the benefits of taking care of yourself.
Considering the state of the world and the holidays are fast approaching, now is a good time to practice self-care. It’s so easy to get lost in the season’s chaos and forget to attend to your needs. However, you deserve to come first and nobody can care for you as YOU can. Here are 3 areas of self-care you shouldn’t neglect during the holidays.
What is Self Care?
Not everyone fully understands what self-care is. How do you take care of yourself and how do you know you’re doing a good job? Is it about lighting scented candles once a week or saying affirmations in front of the mirror?
While these are some facets of self-care, there’s so much more to it.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines self-care as,
“The ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”
As you can see, this is a broad definition that encompasses your physical and mental health. Self-care is about self-preservation and ensuring you nurture every aspect of your being to the best of your ability. It’s also essential to note that it looks different for each person.
Before you can effectively practice self-care, it’s critical you understand what your needs are. While self-care for one person could be switching their phone off for the day, it might be meeting up with loved ones for lunch to another. Here are some questions you can ask to figure out what your self-care needs are.
What am I doing when I feel most at peace?
What triggers feelings of stress and anxiety for me?
What brings me immense happiness?
How would I describe my ideal day?
What would the healthiest version of me look like?
How do I treat the people I love? Do I treat myself the same way?
What is my love language and how can I practice it on myself?
The answers to these questions should give you insight into your core self-care needs and how best to take care of yourself.
Areas of Self-Care
Now that you understand what self-care is, how can you practice it during the holidays? I’ve provided three areas to focus on and examples of how to practice them below.
Self-care can make you feel good, but it isn’t always a state of euphoria. Sometimes, self-care is having the discipline to choose what’s best for you long-term, and not what feels good in the moment.
During the holidays, it’s easy to throw routines out the window and adopt unhealthy habits. For example, you may find you’re working out less and indulging in more sweet potato pie than you should. While life is for living, always have your best interest at heart. Overeating and inactivity aren’t good for your health and can have negative consequences.
Recent studies by psychologists even suggest eating excess amounts of sugar can spark metabolic, inflammatory, and neurobiological processes linked to depressive illness. This means the short-term gratification you get from unhealthy holiday foods may not be worth it long term—especially if you’re vulnerable to depression.
You should also know 6 in 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease. Poor nutrition as well as a lack of physical activity are key lifestyle risks. This isn’t to say overindulging during the holidays will result in you getting a chronic disease. It’s a reminder to be mindful and remember that caring for your health is essential.
Honoring your body’s needs for rest
Sticking to your sleep routine
Engaging in any form of physical activity; yoga, walking, stretching, cardio, etc.
Including leafy greens and fruit in your meals
Drinking enough water throughout the day
Keeping up with your skin and hair care routines
The holidays affect people in different ways. For some, it's their favorite time of the year––they look forward to putting up Christmas trees and taking ugly sweater pictures with family. For others, not so much as they get what is coined “holiday blues”. While this isn’t an officially recognized disorder, it is a very real experience.
High emotions, chaotic environments, and stressful situations can cause the holiday blues. Examples include losing a loved one, not having family to celebrate with, overactivity, and feelings of loneliness. Even if you are seemingly happy during the holidays, it’s still possible to experience burnout and fatigue. To reduce the chances of low moods, it’s critical you nurture your mental and emotional health during this season.
What does this look like? Speaking to yourself kindly, setting healthy boundaries, and honoring your needs.
This has been a mentally and emotionally challenging year for people around the globe; we’ve experienced a pandemic and socio-economic unrest. This is more reason to care for your mental health fiercely during the holiday season.
Avoiding the news
Setting clear boundaries with problematic family members
Doing things that naturally boost dopamine levels like exercising
Meditating to offset feelings of stress and anxiety
Saying no when you don’t want to participate in activities or gatherings
Taking time for yourself
Finding a healthy outlet for your emotions e.g. journaling, therapy, or talking to a friend
Connecting with people who bring you joy
Reconnecting with yourself by doing things you enjoy
It isn’t uncommon for people to experience financial stress during the holidays. The pressure to buy lavish gifts and make loved ones happy can cause you to make unwise financial decisions. To prove this point, 86% of millennials overspent on holiday gifts last year.
Overspending can create stress and negatively affect your mental health. Capital One conducted a new CreditWise survey and the findings tell us 73% of Americans say finances are the leading cause of stress in their life. Financial stress can cause challenges like depression, anxiety, weight fluctuations, insomnia, and substance abuse.
How much do people spend during the holidays anyway? In 2020, Americans plan to spend an average of $998 on gifts, holiday items, and other related expenses. This is down $50 from 2019 thanks to COVID.
Before spending, think about your financial situation, and whether you have enough to cover rainy days. The best way to do so is to review your budget and ensure you aren’t spending beyond what you can afford.
That said, making a conscious decision to manage your money is a form of self-care worth embracing. While it’s kind and loving to play Santa, choose to direct that kindness at yourself, too.
Here are financial self-care tips to help you avoid this mistake.
Sticking to a budget
Being honest if you can't afford gifts
Prioritizing your financial needs
Saying no to gatherings that will cause overspending
Paying your bills before gift shopping
Set financial goals for coming months
It has been a challenging year; you deserve a silver lining. The holidays can be just that if you nurture your mental health and commit to meeting your needs. To get the most out of the season and truly be present, don’t forget to self-care. If you need to speak to a therapist about challenges you can’t deal with alone, learn more about the services I offer here.