Raise your hand if you get stressed out during the holiday season. You too? You’re not alone.
The holiday season can be hectic. Trying to find the perfect gifts for our people, making holiday trees and houses Instagrammably cute, going to countless parties that seem to take over every weekend night, and managing it all without breaking the bank, just to name a few things that weigh on our minds this time of year. Add to that news headlines that make the world feel like an overwhelming and scary place and the constant pressure to take on more and more and be perfect at it all, leaving us feeling frazzled and overwhelmed.
It’s no wonder self-care is everywhere. We seek out ways to forget these stressors, but for some reason it never seems to stick.
Self-Care >> Stress Cycle
We’re stuck in a ‘stress >> self-care >> stress >> self-care’ cycle.
If you’re anything like me, you let things build up until you can’t take it anymore and need to retreat. Binge watching Netflix with a pint of ice cream. Buying clothes that we don’t really need or have the closet space for. Having one-too-many cocktails or cookies. Eating a huge piece of chocolate cake from a hot tub surrounded by the scent of this season’s top bath bomb (doesn’t that just sound like heaven right about now?).
Don’t get me wrong. I love to ‘treat yo’self’ as much as anybody! I have a stash of bath bombs and Epsom salts ready for a good soak at a moment’s notice, and at nearly 27 weeks pregnant, my aching back is calling out for a massage. The relaxing happy-inducing endorphins these experiences bring are amazing and wonderful, but they don’t stick around long do they?
We keep stressing ourselves out to the max until we need another break, and another and another.
Self-Care = Self-Respect
Real self-care happens when you take care of yourself regularly, not just every once in a while when you’ve reached a tipping point and need to breathe. Self-care can be a lifestyle choice, a way of making our day-to-day reality better rather than a means of escaping it.
Self-care is about respecting yourself, not spoiling yourself.
As I’ve been thinking more about this idea, I realized there are little things I do every day or every week, and others habits I could, well, get into the habit of, to help break the stress cycle. They’re not all fun and glamorous, and some take a bit of discipline. But their stress-reducing and zen-inducing effects all totally worth the effort.
Who wants to join me in practicing real, unabashed, love-yourself-all-the-time, self-care?
7 Ways to Take Care of Yourself
I cannot focus or relax when my surroundings are cluttered. When you bring in the mail, sort through it right away. When you leave a room, take quick scan to see if there’s anything that you can take with you to put away. Before going to bed for the evening, fold the blankets and fluff the pillows, put away any dishes that are lying around. Make use of the in-between moments – like when you’re waiting for your tea to heat up – to wipe down counters, empty the sink, and put things in the cupboards.
Meal prepping is an absolute, no-joke lifesaver. I don’t know how I’d get through the week without it, after long stressful workdays and all of life’s chores – and soon I’ll be adding a baby into the mix! Coming home and being able to throw. food. into. a. bowl. It’s a beautiful thing. Just imagine. You walk in the door, drop your bags on the floor, kick off your shoes, and realize you don’t need to start dinner from scratch tonight. I recently wrote a blog post highlighting my top meal planning tips and tricks – check it out for more.
Keep (and Use!) a To-Do List.
List are the best. Literally the best. There’s always so many thoughts swirling around in my brain at all times of day, from what to eat for breakfast / lunch / dinner / snack and that thing I need to get at the grocery store, to an email I forgot to respond to and a question I have for a co-worker. Without keeping a running list of these things in a notebook that’s with me wherever I go, I’d be lost. Or insane. Or both. A list helps me get these swirling thoughts out of my head and onto paper where I know they won’t be forgotten. No need to keep reminding myself or holding onto hundreds of thoughts at once. They’re all there, outlined neatly, and ready for a satisfying scratch through when they’re completed.
Step Away from Netflix.
So much easier said than done. If your living space is set up like mine, the TV is the epicenter. No matter where I sit, it’s in view and whispering, “Do you know happens next in the Handmaid’s Tale? Because I do. Didn’t they just release the next season of The Crown? I bet there’s a new comedy special. Come oooooonnn.” When I give in, I can never watch just one. It’ll be 9p before I know it and I’m left wondering where my evening went. But I’ve got a little trick up my sleeve to ignore the whispers. I distract myself with something else for 15-20 minutes – reading, working on a blog post, picking up around the house, baking a batch of my favorite cookies. If that time passes and I still feel the pull to veg and watch a couple shows, I let myself. More often than not, I become so absorbed in my new task, I lose track of time – but in a much more productive way.
Eat at the Table.
The simple act of sitting around the table and sharing a meal with family or friends challenges us to ignore all of the other hundreds of things demanding our attention. Even if just 30 minutes, we make up our minds to focus on spending time with one another, enjoy a meal together, and focus on the present. Kristian and I try to eat at the table as much as we can (sometimes we find ourselves engrossed in a series – hello The Handmaid’s Tale and This Is Us – and can’t pry ourselves away). And when we do, when we put our phones away, switch off the TV and turn on some tunes, we really connect. It opens up the opportunity for conversation, learning about each other’s days and what we’re excited or stressed about. Slowing down in this way and focusing in on each other chips away feelings of stress and anxiety. Eating alone tonight? Try jotting down your thoughts and musings about the day in a journal, the things your thankful for and what you hope to accomplish tomorrow. Listen to a chapter or two of that audio book. But above all, focus on the present moment and the meal at hand.
Silence Your Inner Critic.
Oh man, this is a tough one. If anyone’s guilty of negative self-talk, it’s this girl. I’m a perfectionist to the core, personality type 1 on the Enneagram. Even my blood type is A+. It’s just baked into my DNA. I strive for the best, most-perfect result every time, and when something falls short, my inner critic doesn’t let me forget about it for even a second. Perfectionist or not, you know the sound of that critical voice – the one in the back of your mind that that judges you, doubts you, says hurtful things to you. Things that you would never even dream of saying to anyone else. But despite all its bluster and bravado, it doesn’t help you do better. Quite the opposite actually. It inhibits you, limits you, and robs you of your peace of mind. Here are a few small steps I use to turn down the volume on or completely silence my inner critic when she starts to get cranky:
- Recognize and acknowledge she’s real, talking to you. She’s there, like it or not. This takes practice because she likes to make you think she’s the real you.
- Talk back – tell that voice what’s what and that it needs to take a hike. Because you deserve better.
- Replace the critic’s words with positivity and love. Acknowledge the positive things that are happening in your life, the accomplishments you’ve made, the qualities you like about yourself.
There are probably hundreds of other ways to incorporate self-care into your daily life, to be mindful of how you’re feeling day by day and make small changes for the better. I’ve only just scratched the surface here – are there other practices you put in place each day to care for your physical, mental and emotional well-being?
Even with some or all of these practices in place, go on and have that piece of cake and take bubble bath. Book that massage and pedicure. Have a movie night with a big bowl of popcorn or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. But not because you’re trying to escape from the world or from your life. Because it’s the little things and occasional indulgences like these that make life so sweet.
You deserve it. ❤️❤️❤️