Put Self-Care on Your Holiday To-Do List

The holiday season is here! Are you ready? Our already-long to-do lists get even longer as we add shopping, decorating, cooking, traveling and even burning the midnight oil at the office to prepare for our time off. 

Amid this frenzy of activity, self-care is often the first thing to go. As women, we can be so focused on making everything “perfect” for the special people in our lives that we overlook our own needs.   

I’d like you to think about this in a different way, though. If you aren’t caring for yourself, you can’t really show up for the people you love. You’re more likely to be tired, stressed and critical. On the other hand, if your own needs are met, you can be fully, joyously present with others. And that’s the best gift you can give them. 

So how can you practice self-care when you’re crazy-busy? Here are a few ideas. 

  • Need help with something? Ask. In particular, don’t expect your husband to read your mind about what should be done or how you would like it done.
  • It’s a joyful time of year, but there are also plenty of things that can make you feel stressed or upset – from work deadlines to family tensions. Make a list now of healthy ways to relieve your stress (practicing yoga, doing a mindfulness meditation, reading something inspiring, talking with your friends, etc.) and refer to it often.
  • Nostalgia can be a lovely part of the season. But pay attention if you notice you’re longing for “the way things used to be” – and can’t be again. A family death, divorce, estrangement or even a move can dramatically change your holiday season. Honor your grief, and work toward embracing the present and starting new traditions.
  • You may not have time for your usual workout schedule, but don’t take an “all or nothing” approach. Do something physical every day, even if it’s just a walk around the block.
  • Similarly, don’t totally abandon your healthy eating habits even as you indulge a little. Take the time to fully savor your food, especially your favorite holiday treats.
  • Say no. To social plans when you need some quiet time. To second helpings when you’re already full. To whatever you need to.  If the word “no” makes you uncomfortable, read my past blog article on reclaiming your boundaries.
  • Don’t “soldier on” if you’re sick – all that does is delay your recovery.
  • If your perfectionism can get out of hand this time of year, do a reality check with your family. What’s really important to them? (They might not even notice all those “magazine-perfect” touches you obsess over!)
  • If anything starts to feel like too much – your in-laws, crowded stores, even decorations and music — take a break. You can even plan ahead for some escape time. For example, stay at a hotel instead of with your family or schedule a massage to escape from shopping.

 Enjoy this season of giving – and remember to be generous with yourself, too.

Selfishness vs. Self-Care

I do not trust people

Does this sounds like your marriage?

When your husband is tired or depleted, he takes a break to have fun, sleeps or has a snack.

But when you are tired or depleted, you keep pushing on, because people need you and there’s so much to be done.

And his ability to hit the “off” switch is driving you a little crazy. It just seems so … selfish.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on here.

Men get very different messages about self-care than we do. They’re more at ease with the idea that they have to tend to their own needs as a part of basic self-maintenance.

As women, though, we’ve often internalized the idea that self-care equals selfishness. We’re taught to prioritize others to a fault. When we expect ourselves to have it all and do it all, it’s hard to fit down time into that vision.

This may sound counterintuitive at first, but you’ll be able to do more if you take your foot off the gas sometimes. You need self-care — rest, exercise, healthy food, time for yourself — to have the marriage, family and career you want.

If you find yourself irritated at your husband for sleeping in on Saturdays or taking his annual guys camping trip when your family is busy, your ire could be a reflection of how harsh and demanding you are being on yourself.

There’s a quote I love by the late Dr. Maya Angelou: “I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying, which is ‘Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.’”

Try this: Experiment with giving yourself a break for self-care. Be compassionate and gentle with yourself, remembering that you’re not being selfish.  Allow yourself to experience how good it feels to stop pushing and tend to your own needs for a while. Isn’t it a relief? Keep doing this, and you may see a shift in how you feel when your husband takes down time.