5 Tips for Self Care During the Holidays

Whether you are observing a holiday or not, this time of year can be spirit crushing. Memories tend to rear their heads. Accessibility to (and desire to access) family becomes a point of reflection. Old patterns arise and we get mired in the struggle not to play them out again. We are rediscovering, redefining and setting our goals as we enter the next chapter of our lives.

It doesn’t help that 2016 has been rife with conflict and disaster. Many of us would strike this year from history if we could. We would replace it with brighter chapters with more obvious silver linings.

Maybe this year was good to you, but this season is still hard. I’d like to support you in finding ease during the holidays. Here are five tips for your self care to help get you through

1. Say no.

If it is a financial, emotional or physical strain to bring 3 pies to your annual gathering, say no. Be honest with yourself about what you can do. Have a list of ways you know you can safely help beforehand if possible so you can soften the “no” by offering something else in return. It doesn’t have to be baking, buying or making. You could offer your time, love, ear or some other talent in your personal arsenal. Remember that holidays and gatherings are about connection, not production.

2. Write it out.

This is my personal go-to for emotional release. In fact, I have a Survive Your Story Holiday Writing Guide running right now. You can sign up by joining the Survive Your Story email list (look for the MailChimp box in the sidebar). It’s completely free and is set to public, so don’t worry if you’re just joining. You can find all components of the course by opening and SYS email in your browser and using the tabs at the top of the page.

Also consider having a holiday journal handy (printable here) so you can jot down any big thoughts that bubble up. Write it and leave it. Give your concerns to the page and come back to them when you’re ready, or use them to light the fire before roasting chestnuts.

3. Take a breather.

You can find multiple breathing techniques by Googling those terms, or you can take a page from my book. Which, well, is actually a page I took from my friend April’s book. My breathing practice used to be counting based. I would breathe in for 4, our for 7, in for 3 (or some other variation) and repeat until calm. I still do this, but I find faster and more lasting centering through aromatherapy. In fact, I have a set of essential oils I carry with me everywhere, and a much larger set at home that I use for physical recovery as well as emotional. Consider keeping a set of scents that bring you joy handy. My favorites are lavender, lemon and peppermint.

If you’d like to learn more about essential oils, you can connect with April here. (not an affiliate link, but absolutely a recommendation)

4. Make your own Nice List.

And put yourself at the top! Give yourself the gift of time. Put yourself first. Don’t be afraid to value yourself. I promise, you are worth it.

5. Pack a bag.

I shared that I keep a bag of aromatherapy oils handy. I also keep writing tools, something to fidget with, a snack, some tea bags, a crochet project and a good book on hand. Choose 5-10 manageably sized items to support you when you know you will be in trying situations. Remember, you are doing your best. It’s okay if you are having a hard time, but it’s also okay for you to make things easier for yourself.

What other techniques do you use for self care during stressful times? 

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

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