the 25 days of self-care (or how to take care of yourself at the holidays)
I’ve been talking a lot about self-care this week with my clients- I don’t know whether it’s the time of year or what, but it seems like a lot of people I’m talking to this week are feeling particularly anxious. And it’s this time of year- holidays, finals, parties, wrapping up the year - that can feel really challenging to make time for yourself and engage in that good ol’ self-care. I’m not talking about spa days and fancy bath products from Lush - I mean the kind of self-care that makes your life more manageable (and enjoyable) and allows you to better connect to yourself and others. When’s the last time you took some time for yourself? If you can’t remember, if it was more than 24 hours ago, or if it’s something that feels really uncomfortable for you - those are all signs that maybe it’s something you need to create some space for in your life.
Two things I want to acknowledge: first, the title of this post is a play on the 25 days of Christmas because it seemed timely but the post itself is as secular as they come. Second, most of the things on this list require some degree of privilege whether that’s time or money or ability or food access. But I tried to make a list that felt accessible to all bodies in some way. I certainly can’t tell you how to best take care of yourself- but these are some things that help me personally as well as some of my clients.
Breathe. Take five deep breaths (inhale for four, hold for four, exhale for four) and then do it again. Considering humans are breathing literally 24/7, we are awfully bad at using our breathe as a tool for stress reduction but it is one of the most helpful things we have in our toolbox!
Stay hydrated (but be mindful that you’re not using water as a way to suppress appetite- we need to drink adequately but there’s such thing as overhydration). If you’re having something to drink with every eating occasion and some in between, you’re probably doin’ just fine.
Take an entire 24 hours of social media. As embarrassed as I am to admit it, for me this means completely deleting the Instagram app and logging out of all other social media platforms on my phone, otherwise I just find myself mindlessly opening it back up. You will be amazed how good you feel when you’re not scrolling through pictures of other’s people’s lives all day. Repeat as needed.
Read something for pleasure. Whether it’s a book, a magazine, a NYT article you’ve had bookmarked for 4 months. Read something that brings you somewhere else, away from work and your personal life and your monkey brain. My personal favorite self-care activity is getting engrossed in a novel and reading the entire thing in a weekend. 12/10 recommend.
Do a puzzle- crossword, sudoku, jigsaw. The puzzle possibilities are endless and it is such a satisfying way to use your brain while simultaneously shutting off your thoughts for a little while.
In that same vein, play a game - board, app, video, etc. Ideally something that gives you that same thrill of playing Super Mario Bros on your Nintendo 64 growing up.
Take a bath or a long hot shower if you don’t have a tub. Light a candle, turn on some relaxing music, bring in a good book (not if you’re in the shower, unless you’re okay with getting your book wet and/or very skilled), get some good smelling products.
Make a gratitude list. At a time of year where gratitude is supposedly the name of the game, it’s easy to forget.
Invite a friend to coffee or just over to chat. Make time for someone you really care about but maybe don’t get to see very often.
Clean out your closet. I am willing to bet that you have more things in there than you need. If you haven’t worn that dress in 4 years, the opportunity is probably not going to present itself anytime soon (and as soon as you give it away, you’ll forget about it altogether). And if you’re still holding on to pieces of clothing that might someday fit….you don’t need that ish. Give it away. It’s a good way to organize your wardrobe and help out others.
Work on that sleep hygiene. Don’t bring your phone into bed (I am telling you this and I am also telling myself this), get into a nighttime routine that you feel good about, and make sure you’re allowing yourself the opportunity to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. I wholeheartedly believe that getting into bed 20 minutes before you usually do will change your life.
If it’s accessible, buy yourself a small treat whether it’s a candle, a latte, or a new dress you feel comfortable in. It’s okay to #treatyoself.
Go to the appointments you need to go to. It’s a busy time of year and extra support from your therapist/dietitian/other healthcare professional may make a world of difference.
Along those same lines, take your meds. One of the most important #boringselfcare activities there is.
Go to a yoga class or do some yoga at home if it’s something your body can do. For some reason, I always think that doing yoga at home won’t have the same effect as if I do it at a studio but I’ll be damed if I don’t feel better after doing a few poses in my living room.
Brainstorm what you want more of/less of in the new year. I’m not a big believer in resolution setting (it just feels inherently diet-culture-y so me) but I’ve already started thinking about some ways I can make more space for the things I want in my life in 2019 and create habits that will help me live more of the life that I want. To be clear, I think you can do this any time of the year but heading into January gives a little more momentum than heading into say, June.
Change your sheets! Fresh sheets are one of life’s great pleasures.
Do something nice for someone else. Whether it’s paying for another person’s coffee or making a donation (monetary or otherwise) to an organization you care about, doing good feels good (and it makes the world a better place)!
Apply lotion as lovingly as you can to your body. I know it might sound uncomfortable and truthfully, it might be uncomfortable but it’s a good way to show your body love even when you don’t necessarily feel love for it. Physical touch is powerful - whether it’s from you or someone else, it’s an easy way to work in some self care. Speaking of…
Have sex! Again whether it’s by yourself or with someone else, it’s proven to reduce tension and is correlated with a whole slew of other benefits (not that I think we should boil intimacy down to its benefits- it’s just an added bonus).
Continue to eat regularly and nourish yourself appropriately. Just because it’s the holiday season, doesn’t mean you need to change your eating (although it can and should involve more gingerbread than usual). You’ll feel much more energized and grounded when you continue to nourish your body.
Allow yourself to have a holiday cocktail if that’s your thing (and it’s safe for you to do so). I kept seeing this article floating around all week suggesting to cut alcohol intake at the holidays because it might make it so that you’ll eat differently. Here’s what I think: we’re allowing to include all foods, including alcohol (again - if it’s safe for you). Just like we don’t need to avoid sweets or gluten, we don’t need to avoid alcohol. And if you eat differently because of it…well, who cares? When we let go of judgments about food, we can see that variations in our eating patterns are a-okay.
Move your body in a way that feels good if that’s safe for you (dance parties to holiday music anyone?)
Clean your physical space. It might not be fun (UGH vacuuming) but coming home to a clean space is a game changer.
Watch Elf every single day for the entire month (I’m half kidding). All jokes aside, watching TV uninterrupted can be a great way to decompress.
Your turn- let me know in the comments one way you’re taking care of yourself lately!