Taking Care of Yourself This Holiday Season

This holiday season more than ever the importance of self-care is evident … virtual family gatherings take the place of in-person gatherings and a potential lack of boundaries raises its head as work from home blends home into work. At the same time, perhaps the lack of the usual holiday parties at this time of year can provide opportunities for self-reflection, self-care and connecting with ourselves and our loved ones in unique ways. Here are a few mindful tips for self-care this holiday season: 

1) Establish your work and home boundaries. With remote work still in full swing for many, it’s very easy (speaking from my own experience here) to let the lines between home and work blur. This can be very stressful and it’s important to build distinctions into your day to separate “home” from “work.” Even something as simple as taking a few deep breaths before and after starting your work day (and ideally throughout on breaks too!) can help to ground your nervous system and let your body know about a shift from work to home or vice versa. If you can manage it, try something a little longer than a few breaths such as a short walk around the block before and after starting your day, a few gentle stretches or even a 5-minute meditation and intention setting. Also (and am definitely still working on this one myself) try not to look at your email whether on your phone or computer first thing in the morning; it’s like starting off your day on the wrong side of the bed with a bad cortisol shot. Instead try something like those aforementioned 3 deep breaths at a minimum and perhaps working up to a short morning self-care practice.

2) Establish a morning self-care practice. On the note of self-care practices, the morning is a great time to start off on the right foot and carry at least some of that energy through the rest of your day. Now, this may be a little controversial but I don’t think you have to do the exact same thing each day for your self-care practice. Yes, doing the same thing does have the benefit of building a habit, but I’d argue that simply doing something self-care related each morning also builds the morning self-care habit. I reached this conclusion after years of trying to do the same (usually very long because it’s hard to pick just one self-care activity) self-care activity each morning and failing to be consistent with it. After some trial and error, I compromised with myself and decided I could pick ANY self-care activity to do each morning and got to pick from a handful such as reading, writing, meditating, exercise, yoga, nature time, etc. Regardless of whether you pick a firm activity or set of activities each morning or try my “buffet” style version, the important thing is to do something for yourself. And if all that is 3 mindful breaths and setting your intention for the day, then that’s awesome. Maybe you even go a little crazy and do a shower meditation (that’s simply where you take a shower mindfully and it becomes a mindfulness meditation exercise and is great fun). 

3) (Spontaneously) Call a Friend. In my opinion this should always be on a self-care list but it’s especially important now when we may not get the chance to see friends and family in person as much or at all. As a 1993 birth year millennial I was lucky enough to grow up before social media and cell phones. When if you wanted to connect with a friend, you called their landline (remember those) or walked over to their house. I’m grateful for all the ways to be able to stay in touch with friends and a family spread out around the world – video chats really can be the next best thing to in person. However, with all the technology and texting and social media and planned zooms, let’s not forget about the awesomeness of a spontaneous phone call. I can count on one hand (maybe two but it’s a stretch) the number of friends and family I feel comfortable with and am in the habit of calling spontaneously and even on that list I tend to rely on planning a chat instead of a spontaneous call. Lately, I’ve started to ask myself why. Don’t get me wrong, planned chats are great. But there is also a place for those spontaneous calls. It’s kind of like the technological equivalent to running into a friend at a grocery store and striking up a wonderful albeit unplanned conversation. So I’d invite you, the next time maybe you’re feeling a little down and thinking of that missed holiday gathering (or maybe you are feeling some unexpected joy or gratitude from that nature walk you took on your self-care ritual), to spontaneously call a loved one. Worst case scenario they’re busy and don’t answer and will call you back and then you get the fun of receiving a spontaneous call 🙂

“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.”

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