If you’re like many women who find themselves giving their all at work as well as at home, what you may not be finding is enough time to give back to yourself. With preparation for the holidays in full swing, this time for yourself has probably become even scarcer as you regularly exceed the average American’s 1.64 cups of coffee per day. It’s time to put down the coffee pot, forget your holiday to-do list, turn off your work calendar notifications, and focus on some much-needed self-care.
These days the internet is filled with articles about self-care that suggest an indulgent spa day or getting your hair done, but practicing true self-care is about more than these feel-good activities. Proper self-care involves consistently checking in with yourself and evaluating what you need to feel healthy mentally and physically. Some days self-care may take the form of that spa day and others it could just be a quiet time in bed. Let’s take a look at a few self-care strategies you can practice this season.
Nurture Strong Relationships
The holiday season is all about connecting with your family and friends. While this often gets lost in the hustle and bustle of the parties, food, and gifts, relationships are at the core of this time of year. Take the time this season to focus on a few of your most important relationships. Cook a meal with your partner and have a relaxing dinner that makes no mention of the impending holidays. Or invite your closest friends over, grab that ice cream that’s sitting in 87% of American freezers at any given time, put on some comfy clothes, and have a night in together. You don’t have to exchange gifts or make extravagant dishes to have a good time with one another.
How can focusing on these connections help? Good relationships can provide a helpful stress buffer and even improve your physical health, just as bad relationships can result in more stress and negative health effects. When you laugh with your loved ones your body releases endorphins, your immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies receive a boost, and your stress hormones decrease.
Make Room For Alone Time
On the opposite end of the self-care spectrum is finding moments of your day when you can fit in some relaxing alone time. Spending time alone isn’t a sign of loneliness, but rather a time when you can rest and refuel while the world keeps moving around you. You’re constantly stimulated by your surroundings at work and home, but quality alone time can help you escape feeling overwhelmed by everything that’s happening around you.
The way that you spend your alone time is completely up to you. If you usually spend the time between when you come home from work and when the kids come home from after-school activities making dinner, order-in instead and sit quietly with no distractions. Focus on the here and now, rather than the past or future, to decompress and center yourself.
If you find it hard to make alone time because you tend to be a people-pleaser, start practicing saying no. Politely turn down the offer to go out to dinner with your friends and instead snuggle into a comfy chair at home with a good book and a cup of green tea, which accounts for 20% of tea consumed internationally. No one will be angry with you for doing what you need for your health. There will be plenty of other dinners with your friends and they’ll understand your need for alone time. You might even inspire some of them to take a break from their busy calendars and spend quality time alone.
Prioritize Caring For Your Body
Too often, women will downplay any feelings of unwellness they have to keep pushing ahead and caring for others. If you find yourself doing this during the holiday season, remember that your health is just as important as that of anyone else. Don’t be like the 40% of people suffering from long-term low back pain who don’t see a doctor or physical therapist; seek professional help for any ailment you have, physical or mental. Many people see therapists to discuss their feelings of depression or anxiety and find it extremely helpful to have a neutral third party with whom they can work out any issues they’re having.
Prioritize your health even if you don’t think anything specific is “wrong” with you. Getting more sleep, for instance, provides relief for many people when they’re feeling stressed out or overwhelmed. You could try treatments like acupuncture, which the World Health Organization endorses for over 200 symptoms and diseases. Even a simple massage can give you the bodily relaxation you need.
There isn’t any single way to practice self-care. Rather, there is an endless number of strategies that you can mix and match to meet your current needs. Whether you start to regularly practice mindfulness techniques to boost your mental wellbeing or you focus on getting enough sleep every night, you’ll be dedicating time to yourself. And you just may find that this is the best gift of all this holiday season.