‘Tis the season to be…stress cases.
As a mama, it’s a struggle to commit to any sort of personal wellness routine in my day-to-day life (which often includes the simple task of shampooing my hair). Needless to say, finding time during the holidays is even more of a challenge. How could I possibly allow myself the time to go for a hike, when I have 500 presents to wrap, six dozen cookies to bake and a velvety bottle of Pinot Noir calling my name?
The not-so-hilarious irony is that when I don’t manage to carve out time to focus on self-care, it has a real impact on everything around me…my family, my work, my mind, my body and even my ability to engage in semi-coherent small talk with overly chatty neighbors. This is why it’s absolutely necessary that we make self-wellness (or, as I call it, self-preservation) a non-negotiable during the holidays—even if that means sacrificing something else you’re certain you need to do.
To begin, planning ahead is essential. So before you Bah Humbug your way through the holidays, I put together a few tips and tricks to get you thinking about how to focus on YOU this holiday season…and maybe even have enough time leftover to figure out what the hell a “turtledove” is.
Just Say No.
I’m a chronic over-scheduler, which is an exhausting trait to have any time of year, but becomes far less tolerable during the holidays. Beyond the barrage of holiday parties (for family, friends, work, kids, pets, etc.), it’s easy to over program your days with festive activities from cookie swaps, tree lightings and challah bake-offs to ornament crafting, caroling, and five different versions of The Nutcracker.
My best advice? Decide ahead of time what your priorities will be this season (individually and as a family), and commit to those. As for the rest, politely decline, or, if it’s a more casual event, play it by ear to make sure you’re not overextending. If your holiday tradition is seeing The Nutcracker every year, that’s wonderful, just consider skipping the “Breakfast with Santa” that morning and the post-theatre Electric Parade. Instead of attending your annual employees-only cookie swap party, consider taking your family sledding (or if you’re in LA, like me, to the mountains!). Fresh air, exercise and quality time trumps a sugar coma with co-workers any day.
But be warned: choosing to be a bit more selective with your holiday plans can cause you to actually enjoy the season! Not to mention save you from added stress, empty calories, needless travel and a crippled bank account.
Be Comfortable in Your Skin.
Whether it’s from stress, the weather or the sugar, my skin always goes berserk during the holidays. Hopefully this article helps you avoid some of those unneeded stressors (and calories), but I’m also a realistic human living on this planet.
My holiday gift to myself is always a really great facial. I want to start the New Year with a positive outlook, fresh intentions and ready to tackle whatever comes my way…and for me healthy skin is essential. A glowing complexion is the perfect way for me to head into 2017. If a spa day isn’t in the cards, give yourself the luxury of an at home treatment: pick up your favorite hydrating mask, de-puffing eye cream and a great exfoliator to get rid of all those dead skin cells. Clear skin, full hearts…can’t lose. (That’s the saying, right?)
Sweat It Out.
By any means necessary, get yourself to the mat, to the barre, to the bike or to the track. I’m not breaking any news here, but exercise reduces the two things we struggle with most during the holidays: stress and calories!
I’m a yoga junkie, but getting to the studio is usually a two-hour commitment (a 15-minute drive each way, a 60-minute class, and 30 minutes to shower up). It’s not only time consuming, it’s also not always feasible with a toddler at home. For that reason, I have been known to participate in Mommy and Me Yoga. It’s not the most amazing workout (especially when my daughter is trying to pull my hair to get me out of plow pose), but it’s something…which is critical. If there isn’t a studio that offers a parent and me workout nearby, don’t fret, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime have plenty of kid-friendly workout videos.
Don’t overcommit yourself. You’ll let yourself down, and then your entire routine will go to hell in a hand basket. Instead, figure out a manageable amount of time, and make it a priority. And if that means only one day a week, that’s OK…just make sure you get there.
I try desperately to meditate. I understand the physical, mental and emotional benefits of truly unplugging for 30 minutes a day, however I just can’t always commit to the time (but when I do, I’m happier, more patient and less likely to lose my cool when things go sideways).
Ideally, I try to find one hour, three times a week, when I can be quiet. Anything more may be grounds for a divorce, and anything less doesn’t feel beneficial. I refer to this as “quiet time,” because it’s not meditation. Meditating requires the act of doing nothing, which gives me anxiety during the holidays when I have so much to do. Instead, I try to use the hour doing something mindless (like wrapping gifts or folding laundry) while sitting on my couch or bed alone (no partner, no children, no pets and no phone) and listening to music or a podcast. Not only am I taking care of some trivial task that has to get done, I’m also enjoying a quiet, comfortable recharge.
For the record, it doesn’t count if your kids are sleeping. It needs to be during the day, when you actually have the energy to be truly lazy.
Let You Eat Cake.
I love these websites that make silly suggestions like: “Limit yourself to one glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve;” “Indulge on two tablespoons of mashed potatoes;” and “Skip the Gingerbread Berry Trifle and treat yourself to some fresh fruit.”
To those people, I say this: Shut up!
Here you are…reading a Beyond Yoga blog post on how to be good to yourself during the holidays, so I’m fairly confident you’re already aware of the importance of self care. So my rule of thumb is this: indulge, just don’t overindulge.
For me, I do my best to eat well throughout the year, so I approach the holidays like a special treat. It’s why I work so hard every month, so pass that eggnog (and brandy too!). That being said, I know myself well enough to recognize that mowing an entire tray of sugar cookies won’t make me feel too great, but one (or two!) will taste like heaven.
So while I’ll enjoy my fair share of sugar and carbs on the holidays, I try my best to avoid the weeks of grazing leading up to the actual event and the mountain of leftovers afterward. That’s where the real calories hide. If you’re the one cooking, do your best to cook an appropriate amount of food for the number of guests and send people home with leftovers (a little bit spread among a group is way better than a pound of sausage stuffing in your fridge).
All of this said, if you know that you can cut your diet loose around the holidays and snap back into shape after the New Year, then treat yourself to that second helping! But if you know that packing on holiday pounds will send you into January spiral, then do your best to avoid it.
The point for ALL of this is recognizing what you need and what is best for you (and your family)… and then doing just that.
Wishing you and yours a holiday filled with good cheer and positive vibes.
This post first appeared on BeyondYoga on Nov. 28, 2016