Have you ever felt run down, exhausted, and mentally undone by the time January 2nd rolls around? It’s a scenario that I’m far too familiar with. See, I struggle with things like FOMO (the fear of missing out) and seasonal depression, both of which can lead me to depleted, dark places, even when the holidays are in full swing.

If you’re used to feeling strung out as the holidays unfold each year, take heart in the fact that you’re not alone — and you don’t have to buckle under the pressure.

Finding Yourself During the Holidays

Now, before you misunderstand me, let me make one thing clear: I like the holidays. In fact, they’re one of my favorite times of the year.

So, I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or weep tears of despair into your eggnog. Let the record stand that the holidays are a truly magical time of year.

With that said, they can also be a genuinely exhausting time of year. If, for example, you have multiple children under the tender age of six, they can often be a handful this time of year. Trying to corral young kids — both physically as you move from one event to another as well as curbing all of those tender, overly-indulgent expectations — for six weeks straight at the end of each year can do a number on your physical and mental stability.

A Dawning Revelation

As the years have gone by, and each time I’ve reached January feeling like I just finished a back-to-back marathon, I’ve had a growing revelation: if there was ever a time for some self-care it’s during the holidays.

Now, again, it’s important to clarify here. I’m not saying anyone should abandon their traditions, plans, or children’s lovingly amped-up expectations in order to recklessly indulge in their own needs. By all means, engage in the normal, blessedly raucous holiday insanity as much as you always do.

All I’m saying is that it’s worth making an effort to balance the holiday norm with just a little dose of self-care from time to time.

If Ebenezer Scrooge can spend time sitting in front of his fire, eating a late-night snack — we’re looking at you, Michael Caine — then the rest of us can spend a little time unwinding and dipping into that holiday cheer as well.

The important thing is finding the balance between planning in self-care and still attending to all of those holiday traditions, activities, and responsibilities — and yes, those don’t go away just because you’re taking care of yourself.

For Your Humble Consideration

If you’ve been nodding and saying “yes and amen” to yourself as you read along, here are a few suggestions for self-care this holiday season.

You don’t have to use these exactly as they’re written. Instead, personalize them for your own scenario, or even use them as a springboard to come up with your own self-care solutions.

Many of my own struggles have revolved around mental health and maintaining a positive attitude throughout the holiday season, so my personal self-care recommendations tend to tack towards more of a mental wellness theme. But again, don’t be afraid to substitute them for your own personalized prescription.

Find a Good Mental Wellness App

The holidays can be busy, as we all know. Sometimes I can’t find a minute in the day, let alone a few hours to head off to a session with a counselor or to withdraw to my room to meditate or read a book quietly.

If you can relate, Bradley University has a list of some great stress and anxiety management apps that you can download and keep right in your pocket at all times, ready to whip out whenever the stress strikes.

Equip Yourself With Anxiety and Stress Management Techniques

Along with a good app, there are plenty of ways to both manage and reduce the stress and anxiety over the holidays. A few of my favorite suggestions include:

  • Sticking to a strict sleeping schedule.
  • Practicing mindfulness on a daily basis.
  • Exercising — you’ve got to counteract all of that holiday eating!
  • Seeking out quality time with those you both love and like.
  • Practicing breathing techniques.

Set Your Expectations

One of the nastiest curve balls that the holidays have thrown at me over the years is the unexpected arrival of the Holiday Blues. Feeling bummed out when society is constantly informing you that you shouldn’t be feeling that way at this time of year adds stress on top of stress.

Take time beforehand to set your expectations in preparation for any seasonal depression or Holiday Blues that might creep into the picture once the holidays get going in earnest. Remember that you don’t need to always come through for everyone, you don’t need to break the bank on gifts, and it’s okay to miss out on some of the festivities from time to time.

Look For Holiday Pay

Some employers offer holiday pay. This can provide a great opportunity to take a paid vacation around the holiday season. The amount of time and how it’s covered depends on where you work.

If your employer offers holiday pay, take advantage of it as a chance to relax and unwind in between all of the holiday bustle. This may mean lying in bed all day reading a good book under the covers, or taking yourself out for a special holiday drink and your favorite coffee shop and getting some much needed alone time. Whatever it is, take advantage of your time to the fullest.

Think Before You Drink

Finally, drinking mindfully is always a good idea over the holidays. Alcohol is a depressant, and if you’re struggling with the Holiday Blues, make sure to think before you drink! It may be tempting to drink a lot at the various holiday parties you attend, or even as a way to unwind after a hectic day, but resist. It will only make you feel worse in the long run.

Incorporating Self-Care Into Your Holiday Season

Whether you’re avoiding alcohol, practicing mindfulness, setting expectations, or leaning on that mental wellness app, there are plenty of small yet significant ways to take care of yourself throughout the busyness of the holiday season. The important thing is that you take action now.

What are you going to do? Pick something from the list or come up with your own self-care strategy? Whatever you do, plan it now, so that you’re ready to fight back when the holiday buzz starts to ramp up.

Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer in Boise, ID. Ever since graduating the University of Montana with a degree in English, she spends her spare time gardening and cuddling with her cat, Casper.





Image courtesy of Paola Chaaya.