The holidays sometimes feel like a runaway train you step on in early November and fall off of, exhausted, after the New Year. They are a time of joy, and an opportunity to show your loved ones just how much you care for and appreciate them.
But take a moment. Be honest with yourself: As you work (perhaps even scramble) to make the season the best it can be for those around you, could you be ignoring yourself in the process? It can be hard to answer yes when doing for others feels good and nurtures your soul. But caring for your loved ones shouldn’t also mean neglecting the needs of your own body and mind.
This year, start by giving yourself a gift—time for movement, enough sleep to feel restored, and an opportunity to recharge. It may seem like a tall order, but the caring for yourself will allow you to tackle the busy season with calm, grace and enjoyment—and share that happiness with everyone around you.
Give Yourself the Gift of Eating Well
Eating nutritious food that helps you stick with your weight goals may take a backseat when things get busy. Still, it’s a well-balanced diet that not only promotes good health, but helps stabilize your mood and maintains your energy levels. Take time to plan out meals that will ensure you feel your very best. When you create shopping lists, double check that they include foods your loved ones enjoy, as well as those that support your efforts to eat well. If your Aunt Pat is pushing her famous cherry pie, don’t feel guilty about saying, no thanks. And if you choose to have a slice, don’t punish yourself for the indulgence. Savor each bite and know that you’ll back on track tomorrow.
Give Yourself the Gift of Movement
Exercise is often the first thing to go when your schedule gets crowded. But keeping physical activity on your to-do list—and even adding extra sessions to your routine—can help you to reap the benefits of lower stress levels, improved mental clarity and better sleep. Is it easy to say you’ll be late to a party because you’re hitting your Zumba class? Maybe not. But family and friends won’t mind your tardiness when a relaxed, cheery and attentive you walks through the door.
Give Yourself the Gift of Sleep
You know the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Solid, regular rest not only prevents you from dragging but can lower your risk of chronic diseases, make your metabolism hum and significantly reduce the impact of stress. Even a quick cat nap has been shown to do wonders for your outlook. When bedtime seems like a waste of time—precious hours you could use to chop, wrap or clean—remember how sleep helps restore your body and mind. Find opportunities to get the rest you need: Exit early from that after-work gathering, or sneak in a 20-minute snooze on Sunday afternoon.
Give Yourself the Gift of Peace of Mind
While dinner parties and other social commitments of the season provide you with a reason to connect with others, personal time can fall by the wayside. It may seem counterintuitive to withdraw or seek out silence, but a certain amount of alone time can help you reset and alleviate holiday stressors, make you feel less burdened and better able to roll with whatever surprises come your way. So, find time for daily meditation, zoning out with a favorite hobby, or whatever it is that helps quiet your mind.
Give Yourself the Gift of Spiritual Connection
This time of joy, good will and friendship is a great environment in which to explore your spirituality or your relationship with something larger than yourself. That could be God, a Source, the power of nature—whatever speaks to you. Take some time to reflect on it and participate in activities like volunteering, praying, meditating or being outdoors. You may find that embracing spirituality helps you appreciate the goodness both inside of and outside of yourself.