As the holiday season approaches, this can often stir up mixed feelings, including Christmas stress! We can find ourselves flitting between excitement for some time off and apprehension about our load returning to work. We can find ourselves longing for some rest and so feel dread and resentment about the family and social obligations we keenly committed to in advance.
Finding balance between excitement and stress, celebrating with others and meeting our own needs can be challenging. If this sounds all too familiar to you, here are five top tips to help you look after yourself during the festive period.
Recharge Your Spirit: Take Time out for Yourself to Reduce Christmas Stress
The build up to time off right at the end of the year can sometimes leave us feeling fatigued and desperate for a break. We may envisage our energetic selves carolling but find ourselves feeling run down and longing for the duvet instead. Even if we feel well, we can still long for a little rest and quiet time.
Often my clients tell me they have some time off over Christmas for a break, but when I ask what their plans our, there is no sign of a break in sight! Time off work doesn’t always mean time for yourself. Give some thought to what taking a break truly means for you. Whether it's a quiet moment with a book, a leisurely walk, or simply unwinding with a cup of tea, carve out time for activities that help refresh and restore you. When we take time to look after ourselves, we can build our resilence to deal with stress.
Nurture Your Wellbeing: Practice Festive Self-Care
In the midst of holiday plans, remember to prioritise self-care. Recognise that everyone's self-care needs differ and you may want to consider what this looks like for you. It could be a soothing bath or an invigorating run depending on what helps you feel good. Self-care doesn’t have to be something you do alone. Time with a loved one, enjoying a hobby with friends or sharing a meal can all be forms of self-care if they are things that help boost your sense of wellbeing.
Take the time to identify your own needs and ensure you make space for activities that replenish your energy and help you take care of your wellbeing throughout the holiday season.
Embrace Imperfection: Be Realistic in your Christmas Expectations
Life isn't a holiday movie. It’s OK to appreciate exquisite decorations, co-ordinated gift-wrapping and matching pyjamas but we live in the real world not a Hollywood set and real life is normally a little messier, with the odd curve ball thrown our way when we least expect it!
If you’re prone to perfectionism, try focusing on enjoying a 'good enough' celebration and see if you can embrace the imperfections. When we set our expectations too high, we can feel excessively disappointed. By aiming for 'good enough’ we can focus more energy on appreciating the positives and be more accepting of any blips or minor disasters.
Acknowledge the Challenges: Talk About How You Feel
Christmas isn’t always a happy time for everyone. For those of you grieving, it can be a time where the absence of lost ones is felt most intensely. For those struggling with body image or disordered eating, the heightened focus on food around the holiday season can be a big trigger. Anyone will social anxiety will know the pressures of Christmas parties and events can feel overwhelming. If you’re stressed or burnout, you may lack the energy to be enthusiastic about holiday plans and this may bring on feelings of guilt or sadness.
We’re all people with stuff going on in our lives. While this can be a happy time, there are lots of reasons why this may be a particularly difficult time of year for you. Whatever you may be feeling, you won’t be alone with these experiences. Take time to notice how you are feeling and reach out to those you are close to and trust and talk about things.
Spread Joy Sensitively: Celebrating Festive Cheer with Empathy
If you're in high spirits, spread the joy! Share your positive experiences, but remain mindful of those who may be facing challenges. A friendly ear or a kind gesture can make a significant difference to someone struggling during the holidays. Balance your festive cheer with empathy and compassion.
A Final Thought on Finding Balance
Christmas is often a time of giving, which is a wonderful thing. But it can be easy to forget about ourselves, especially if you have caring responsibilities or tend to prioritise the needs of others over your own at the best times already. As we move into the holiday season, remember that your wellbeing, wants and needs are just important as anyone else’s. Try incorporating these tips into your festive plans and see if you can navigate the season with a sense of balance - and hopefully enjoyment!
Updated November 2023.