This time of year, it can seem as if there is a shortage of time with a growing to-do list for the holiday. And to increase the adrenaline, winter break and school vacation is a soon upon us, leaving less time to get everything done. While this time of year is lovely, it’s also hectic. Even more challenging, fitting in self-care with a jam-packed schedule of family, work and school obligations, celebrations, and vacation.
So why is self-care, even more, important for women to put on the to-do list during the holiday season? The short answer, because women carry more of the responsibility to plan, prepare, shop, cook, wrap and orchestrate holiday celebrations and gatherings. Researchers have studied the impact of holiday stress with specific findings showing women experience stress more than men during the holiday season. Findings from the American Psychological Association 2006 study on holiday stress include:
- During the holiday season, women experience more stress compared to men.
- Women have difficulty relaxing during the holiday
- Women coped with holiday stress by comfort eating
- During the holiday season, women are more likely to take on more work
- Compared to men, women are more likely to worry about having enough money to purchase gifts
- Lack of time significantly increased stress for women
- So how can you keep self-care a priority in an already jam-packed stressful time of year?
1. Manage Your Thoughts and Beliefs About Self-Care. Self-care is not optional. In a time of year when there is so much to do, manage the superhuman belief that you can push yourself to the limit without taking care of yourself. Not taking care of your physical and emotional needs can increase your risk for health related illness and mental health impairment.
Self-care is not selfish. Scheduling time to care for yourself is not selfish, its self-preservation and necessary. Rest and doing activities you enjoy can increase happiness and restore energy.
2. Stick to a Schedule. During this busy time of year, it can be challenging to get enough sleep, exercise and maintain healthy eating. Between parties, events and preparing for the holiday, there will be changes in what you eat, skipped workouts, late nights and missed sleep. Be flexible with your schedule but try to follow your routine best you can. One or two days of disrupted sleep, diet and exercise may not seem problematic, but when it become more of a habit, the result can be increased stress, fatigue, irritability and reduced happiness. Caring for your physical needs to get enough rest, exercise and nourish your body is self-care.
3. Reach Out for Support. Keep supportive people nearby by reaching out for a call, text, or a visit. Reach out to those who are emotionally supportive and helpful in your life. Let friends know ahead of time if you need a phone call or visit to debrief a work or family function. If you are in therapy or thinking of going to therapy, now might be a good time to consider professional support as a layer of emotional support during a stressful time. Staying connected to supportive people in your life is emotional self-care.
4. Schedule Self-Care. We can talk about self-care as the day is long, however, scheduling self-care and making it happen is critical. Schedule time for yourself that has nothing to do with giving to anyone, but yourself. While this may seem near impossible, consider how a small amount of self-care can go a long way. There is no “right way” to practice self-care. Knowing what you need to recharge, restore and care for yourself is important. Perhaps self-care for you can be going for a walk in silence, meditation, or practicing yoga. Someone else may enjoy journaling, going for a run, painting or enjoying a cup of tea with a friend. Even five to ten minutes of self-care each day can help manage stress during the holiday. Don’t make self-care optional, instead, incorporate self-care into your daily schedule.
5. Stay Mindful. To be mindful means to be present in the moment that is unfolding in front of you and participating fully in the moment with minimal distraction. If you are in a state of worry, it is near impossible to be mindful. Worry detracts from enjoyment. In everyday life and especially during the holidays, many of us have a long list of things to do and an itinerary by the minute scrolling in our minds of the next thing to get to. Work to stay focused on what is important to you. What part of the holiday season is most meaningful to you? Is it celebrating for religious reasons? Connecting with friends and family? Honoring family traditions of cooking, baking, and storytelling? Is one of your goals of the holiday to see the enjoyment and happiness with your children and family? If you find yourself stressed out, take a deep breath, refocus on what is most meaningful to you during this time of year, and work to create what is important to you. Staying true to your personal values and goals is emotional and spiritual self-care.
6. Delegate when Possible. Sometimes it seems impossible to delegate tasks or ask for help. Start by making a list of what needs to be done during the holidays. Take a few things off the ‘to do list’ by asking others to take over a task or errand. While it may not be done “exactly” your way, letting other people help you can free up some of your time and help you relax and enjoy the holiday season. Delegating to others can open up more time so you can manage stress and increase self-care.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season filled with peace, joy, happiness and self-care.
© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2015