6 Ways to Prioritize Self-Care During the Holidays

Last month, I opened up about my eternal struggle to prioritize self-care, and how my family has had to pay the price for it. While writing about my very painful mental breakdown wasn’t easy, and I felt extremely vulnerable publishing it, I’m so glad I did because of the outpouring of support I’ve received since then. So many of you reached out to let me know that I’m not alone, and that self-care is apparently a really tough thing for a lot of moms to master.

Now, we’re diving headfirst into the holiday season. As wonderful and magical as the holidays can be, they can also be extremely stressful. You’ve got unexpected expenses, travel plans, and expectations flying around that, if you’re not careful, can really weigh you down and hurt you.

Here are some ways that you can prioritize self-care this holiday season:

1. Start small. Take your regular, everyday life and add a little goodness where you can. Light your favorite scented candle in your kitchen. Switch out your morning shower for an evening bath. While you’re out shopping for stocking stuffers, grab a drugstore facemask. Even small tweaks like this inside your home can lift your spirits just enough to get you through one more Christmas card addressing session.

2. RSVP no, and refuse to feel guilty about it. Between office Christmas parties, church functions, Friendsgivings and the like, my calendar during the last few months of the year can look like an over-detonated minefield. Even I, the eternal extrovert, can get overwhelmed, over-stimulated, and exhausted at the thought of too many events. Tell the FOMO Monster that lives in your brain that you DON’T have to overstuff your calendar to have a magical holiday season. Quite the opposite, in fact. Care for yourself by intentionally declining some (heck, even all) of the holiday event invites you get in lieu of more breathing room and downtime.

3. Make a budget and stick to it. Nothing sets my anxiety ablaze like a blown budget. My husband tends to let the nostalgia of the holidays own him during this season, so I’ll see him buying extra gifts for people or even extra gifts for himself. Meanwhile, I have the twisted compulsion to send a Christmas card to literally any person I’ve ever had a five-minute conversation with. Both of us are to blame for overspending during this season, which leads to fights in the kitchen and maniacal number-crunching to try and figure out how to afford groceries on December 26. I know it isn’t sexy, but trust me. Setting and sticking to a budget during the holiday season is a way to care for yourself. Sure, it means saying no to giving gifts to some people, or skipping out on holiday cards, but I promise, you’ll thank yourself later.

4. Set boundaries. Before you get together with your extended family and dive deep into the tensions that come with family gatherings, decide ahead of time what you will and will not do/tolerate. For instance, my extended family lives four hours away, and they know that we won’t be traveling and “doing Christmas” outside of our home. We decided we want to celebrate the holiday in our own home, with our own tree, with our kids, and building our own traditions. That doesn’t mean our extended family can’t participate; they just need to travel to us to do it. Similarly, I’ve put a moratorium on political conversations during holiday gatherings. First of all, I’m so sick of them. But secondly, my kids will most likely be around me, and I don’t want them overhearing anything negative or asking me questions I wish I wouldn’t have to answer. So, I’ve specified this boundary to my family and everyone’s on the same page. At first, it was certainly awkward for this people-pleaser to have these conversations, but I’m so grateful to be on the other side of them. I can go into family interactions during the holidays knowing that I won’t be set off.

5.Take a break from social media. Nothing ignites the ugly, comparative side of me like social media during the holidays. When I see my friends’ ornate decorations or their adorable DIY gifts, I start to doubt myself as a wife and mother. I start to feel less than, like my kids are getting the short end of the stick because they’re stuck with an un-crafty, un-wealthy mom like me. And then you know what happens? My kids DO suffer, because their mom is too busy lamenting who she isn’t instead of leaning into who she is. So, as a means of self-care, I’ve logged out of my social media accounts on my phone. It’s not like I have the time to scroll through endless posts of elves on shelves anyway.

6.Buy a gift for yourself. Because why not? You deserve it.

This time of the year really, truly can be the best time of the year. But it can also kind of be the worst, if you let everyone take from you. Make your list of priorities and check it twice– you belong at the very top.