Do you ever feel like the most magical time of year is also the most stressful? Full schedules and minimal daylight hours can make it feel like you’re running on fumes to get everything done. Once the holiday comes to an end, you’re so exhausted by over-committing yourself, self-care becomes nothing more than a dream.
As you set your intentions for the coming decade, consider these tips created to help you care for yourself and make it easier to be present and thriving in 2020.
1. Sleep soundly
With minimal sunlight and not enough hours in the day, sleep tends to suffer during the holiday season!
Protect your sleep with these simple tips:
Wear blue-light blocking lenses during evening hours or, better yet, avoid using electronics two hours before your head hits the pillow.
Limit snacking before bedtime to prevent waking up with a headache, heartburn, or indigestion.
Eliminate all caffeine after 2pm, and cut back if the entire carafe is your coffee mug of choice.
Create a nighttime routine that prepares you for restful sleep - meditate or listen to calm music, diffuse or apply some lavender or vetiver oil, amp up your nighttime skincare routine, and take a warm bath or shower before you call it a night.
2. Morning routine
Set the tone for a good day from the moment your alarm goes off! Taking even just 5 minutes to set your intentions for the day can totally change your mood and perspective for the better. If your mornings are already chaotic and hectic, get your meals and outfits planned the day before so that you have more time for Y-O-U.
3. Move until your mind is clear
If you’ve ever spoken with Dr. McRae, you’ve probably heard this phrase before. Walking cues your brain to release endorphins, which boost mood and mental clarity and reduce stress. A brisk, 10-minute walk is enough to kickstart this process on your lunch break or between meetings!
4. Check yourself
If you can’t remember the last time you had your blood drawn, now might be a good time! A decrease in daylight hours is often accompanied by Seasonal Affective Disorder, resulting in changes in mood, energy levels, weight, cravings, concentration, and more. A simple blood test and office visit with a medical provider can tell you if your Vitamin D level is low, and spending time outside or taking a high-quality D3 supplement can make a huge difference with those winter blues.
5. Just say no
Parties and concerts and shopping, oh my! As your holiday dance card fills up, don’t be afraid to say no to commitments that are low on your list of priorities, so that you have time for the things that are important to you.
6. Set realistic expectations
Perfectionists, I see you! It’s easy to get caught up in the nostalgia of holidays past, remembering only the best parts of your memories. Unfortunately, life isn’t a Hallmark Christmas Movie, and sometimes the turkey is overcooked, the dog eats your Christmas tree, and your oven goes kaput right before a big party! Set yourself up for success by creating realistic, manageable expectations for gatherings, and take a minute to breathe and remind yourself that everything will be okay IF and when something does go awry!
7. Move your body
Exercise routines often fall by the wayside this time of year, so plan ahead by coming up with fun ways to break a sweat if you don’t have the time or motivation for your regular workout! Invite a visiting friend or relative to attend a local yoga class, follow along to a quick Tabata or HIIT workout video on YouTube, or combine a brisk walk with some light stretching. Just ten minutes of exercise per day can signal to your brain to release the same happy-making hormones targeted by antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications. Not to mention, it’s a great way to balance that extra Christmas cookie you allowed yourself to enjoy (go you!).
8. Eat well
With holiday and Christmas parties comes the pressure to not fall off your diet. This year, allow yourself some room for indulgence by eating healthy 80-90% of the time. Eat greens with every meal (yes, even breakfast...hellooooo, omelets, and frittatas), savor the first few bites of every meal, and never arrive at a holiday dinner or party on an empty stomach. A few bites of healthy food beforehand will help stabilize blood sugar and keep you from bingeing as soon as you see the cookie tray!
If you’re feeling overstimulated by or hyper-connected to your electronic devices, now is a great time to cut back on your screen time. Set limitations on when you use your devices and devote all your new free time to that basket of laundry that’s been waiting to be folded for two weeks, or, better yet, spend that time doing something you really enjoy, like reading a book, decorating your house, or taking a bubble bath.
10. Be grateful
While deep down I think we’re all truly grateful, it’s helpful to take some time to intentionally recognize the things in our lives deserving of our gratitude. Whether you write it down in a journal, set an intention to just be mindful of it, or physically share that gratitude with those around you, you’ll find you feel less stressed and anxious the more you focus on all that goodness!
11. Just breathe
Box breathing is a simple technique that can be done anywhere, anytime, to ease tension, reduce pain, minimize stress, and improve your overall well-being in seconds! Just follow these simple steps:
Close your eyes. Breathe in slowly through your nose, counting to four while really feeling your ribcage, lungs, and diaphragm expand.
Hold that breath for four counts.
Slowly exhale as you count to four.
Pause for four seconds before you take your next breath.
Repeat this as often as needed to improve mental clarity, mood, anxiety, and more.
12. Be intentional
The holiday season is often such a whirlwind that we don’t take time to truly enjoy it until it’s over. Take time to drink in those moments and be present, wholly enjoying this magical time of year.