By Haley Martin, Portland Oregon
Season's greetings, yogis! The holidays are upon us and along with them come growing to-do lists, booked calendars and mounting stress. While the end of the year marks a time of reflection, connection, and celebration, it's often accompanied by added pressure that can take a toll on our own well-being. Read on for 10 easy strategies to stay on top of your self-care game this season so you can make the most of the holidays.
1 Set intentions & plan ahead
Now is the perfect time to ask yourself what you want this holiday season to look like. Before the chaos sets in, take some time to tune into yourself and journal about what you want to manifest or minimize over the next few months.
Some thought starters:
What does this season mean to you? How do you want to express gratitude to your loved ones?
What typically causes you the most stress around the holidays and how can you find workarounds?
What boundaries do you want to set to ensure you don’t get burnt out?
How can you plan ahead? Consider setting dates for gatherings, booking travel arrangements, brainstorming gift ideas or ordering ahead.
2 Simplify gift-giving
In my opinion, malls are crowded breeding grounds for stress, bad lighting and endless things we don’t need. So try to avoid them!
Gift giving doesn’t have to be stress-inducing and expensive. Is there something unique you can make for your loved ones- something you will also enjoy making? An experience you can share together?
If you do have to go to the store, start the experience off on a positive note. Before heading into the frenzy, take a few minutes to meditate, do some deep breathing, and set your mind in a calm place. Schedule a break to meet a friend for lunch or pick up your favorite tea while you’re out. We don’t always get to determine our surroundings but we can decide ahead of time how we want to respond to them.
3 Go to yoga or workout class
Never underestimate the power of moving your body. Whether it’s going to the gym or taking a yoga class, sometimes the best form of self-care isn’t an extravagant massage or expensive treat, but simply making time to exercise. Yoga can be incredibly rejuvenating during stressful times. For me, an hour on the mat helps me work out all the kinks and leaves me feeling centered, clear-headed and ready to take on the day. Whatever this looks like for you, find a way to get out of your head and into your body.
4 Spend time outdoors
With colder weather and shorter days setting in, it’s easy to feel cooped up during the winter. Don’t forget to go outside! Invest in a good jacket and find an excuse to do something outside that you enjoy. Last winder, I signed up for ski lessons and noticed a significant improvement from previous winters- I had an activity to look forward to and improve upon, and was spending way more time enjoying the outdoors. When it’s grey and rainy here, there’s a good chance it’s a wintery wonderland on the mountain. If winter sports aren’t your thing, set an intention to walk outside for 20 minutes a day. It’s amazing what a little fresh air and vitamin D can do for our spirits.
5 Be of service
With the holidays comes pressure to do all the things, see all the people and be cheerful and energetic all the time. During these stressful times, I find it incredibly helpful to get out of my own little world and gain some perspective from the people around me. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or down, consider volunteering or finding a way to help somebody else. Even if it's taking an hour or two for a random act of kindness, helping others can have profound effects on our happiness, sense of purpose, and remind us of how much we have to be thankful for.
6 Allow yourself to say no
Self-care rule #1. Don’t find yourself in the “busy trap.” If you sense yourself wearing thin, remember that sometimes saying no is just as honorable as saying yes. You are the only one who has control over your boundaries, so try to view every invitation as an opportunity to check in with yourself. How is your energy level? Does this invitation bring you genuine joy or a sense of obligation? Of course there will be times we do things more out of necessity than desire, but in general, “if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no."
7 Listen to your body
This is an important practice all year round, but it’s often easier said than done. Listening to your body is a skill that takes practice and can look different for each person. Are you feeling off from over-indulging? Sluggish because you skipped your workout? Need a night to yourself instead of going to that dinner party? Similar to a well-tuned car, your body is a sophisticated machine that will alert you when something needs attention as long as you're looking for the warning lights. Trust yourself, respect your intuition, and don’t be afraid to adjust course to give your body what it needs.
8 Practice the 80/20 rule
The Pareto Principle states that 80% of results will come from 20% of the action. While this might sound like more of a mantra for the workplace, it’s a valuable reminder for our personal lives as well.
Give up the thought that you can do everything perfectly. You are a human with limited attention, time, energy, and resources. Instead, ask yourself what that 20% of effort is that will result in the most happiness this season? You might not have time to put Christmas lights up, but you can prioritize hosting a Friendsgiving dinner and that will likely result in far more happiness. Do what you can and forgive yourself for what you can’t.
9 Prioritize presence and connection
Above all, remember that these next few months should bring happiness, gratitude, and an opportunity to spend time with our loved ones. Anything that detracts from that probably isn’t worthwhile. No matter what comes up, practice being present with those around you, and finding joy in each present moment. Happy Holidays!
10 Find balance
Yoga teaches us the importance of finding balance. This is even more true with the added demands of the holidays. What does this mean for you? How can you counter-balance spending with saving? Indulging with nourishing? Celebrating with rest? Travel with routine? We hold the power to create balance in our lives, but it requires mindfulness and discipline.