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Six tips for self-care during the holidays

Lori-bigpantsIt’s official. The 2014 holiday season is upon us.

I’m celebrating Thanksgiving in Maine this year and we’re expecting a “Noreaster” later today/tonight so people are rushing to the grocery store and preparing for the onslaught of the holiday, expecting to be “snowed in.” Nothing like a little added stress for those who need to travel. (Please be safe.)

While the holidays are intended for families and friends to come together and celebrate, they can be stressful. The commercialism surrounding the holiday season and the busyness and pressure of it all, not to mention our expectations, can often cause more stress than pleasure.

For many, the act of spending time with family and friends causes stress in and of itself. For others, loneliness, the absence or loss of family causes sadness and/or stress during the holidays.

So how do we take care of ourselves through it all?

How do we prevent throwing in the towel on our self care by trying to do and be and give too much? How can we minimize the expectations we have of ourselves and others surrounding the holidays? And, how do we prevent the natural temptation to give up our diet or healthy lifestyle, ensuring that we get enough sleep and take care of our basic emotional needs?

Well, I decided that, today — as we prepare to give thanks and officially kick off the holiday season — was the perfect time to remind myself and others how to practice self care and reduce stress during the holidays. I’m intent on implementing these principles this year. So here we go.

Lori’s tips for self-care during the holidays:

1) Daily gratitude practice. It might sound crazy to add to the to-do list during the busy holiday season, but this one makes ALL the difference for me. When I start my day, every day, with the top 5 (or 10) things that I am grateful for in that moment, it grounds me in what is important. And the same thing happens when I take time on Thanksgiving Day to share that longer gratitude list (the big stuff and the little stuff) with myself and then out loud with others. Not only does this practice ground me in what really matters, but the hustle and bustle and stress of the holidays seem at bay. My priorities and my focus begin in the right place, no matter the chaos around me. I’ve gotten lazy about my daily gratitude practice this past month so I’m renewing my commitment to it for the holidays. Join me.

2) Give to myself first, then others. This is the fundamental principle of a happy and healthy me. It is the single most important shift I made in my life that has served me, my health and my happiness. This “put yourself in the equation” principle is to make sure that — no matter what happens around me — I am in the center of my own life. That means, I’m taking care of myself and my needs FIRST, so that there I am the best me and there is more to give others.

Each day during the holiday season, I make a note of asking what I need…today. I ask and answer these questions:

  • What do I need today? How can I ensure that my needs — emotionally, physically, and spiritually — are met?
  • When can I make time for exercise in my day, even if it’s just a short walk?
  • What is planned this evening and how can I ensure that I get enough sleep — even if that means not everything on the to-do list gets done or that I have to disappoint someone by not being able to connect socially before the holidays.
  • How will I ensure that I follow my nutritional plan, planning well in advance for holiday meals? What does my success around food over the holiday look like? What will be my greatest challenges re: food and how can I circumvent them? I then make a plan.

Those are the basics, but I also…

  • Make sure that I have time to reach out to those I want/need to connect with on a particular holiday or during the season. AND, give myself permission to say no to the things and the people I need to. Perhaps it’s saying no to overspending on gifts, or giving gifts. Or, it could be saying not to social engagements because I can’t fit everyone or everything in – and feel in my own equation. This is a tough one for me. But it matters.
  • Ensure that my schedule is doable and manageable. For example, I have learned that I simply cannot make social plans every night of the week leading up to the holidays. As social as I am and as tempting as that is, it doesn’t allow any room for spontaneous connecting with friends, and it doesn’t allow time for shopping, wrapping or preparing gifts. If I leave those things until the last minute, I get too stressed.

3) Give up expectations.The holidays are notorious for unrealistic expectations and I’ve struggled with this my whole life. So I now try to not have specific expectations about the perfect holiday, the perfect decorations, the perfect family gatherings. I try to go in with an open mind and be surprised. And I revert back to number principle number 1 – remind myself what really matters and what I am grateful for. Easier said than done. But sooooo important.

4) Give myself permission to say no to what I DON’T want to do. And, yes to what matters most. And the key with this one is to ditch the guilt about it. Still working on it, but practicing.

5) Practice self-love and awareness. I know what makes ME happy. It’s giving to others at the holidays, spending time with those I love, and starting new traditions, but NOT at the expense of myself like I used to. Being in tune with this and what I want and need is key. It takes practice and ongoing work. I’m getting better at it.

6) Create a holiday celebration or ritual. This is a fun one. I look for a celebration or a ritual that serves ME and makes me happy. I’m working on exactly what and when it will be but I have some great ideas. This allows me to make sure that I get some of what feeds my soul during the holidays. I’ll let you know what it is when I know. 😉

In November of 2012, my first year experiencing the holidays as a healthy, happy and transformed person, I was invited to share my story and my self-care and holiday stress reduction tips on PBS Duluth.

You can watch that TV interview titled “Self Care & Stress Reduction During the Holidays” here.

What tips help keep you sane during the holidays? Please feel free to comment or share here. Or, share this blog with others you think might need some help.

Cheers. Happy Holidays peeps. I am grateful for you, always.



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