The holidays mean a lot of things to a lot of people. We want to spread warm tidings by reminding you that colder temps and increased familial obligations are also a time to practice self-care. And all of the self-care tips we’re sharing in this blog post don’t cost a penny. They are small acts of kindness we can give to ourselves during a time that is frequently reserved for thinking about others. Here are 7 self-care tips to help get you through the holiday season without leaving you feeling frazzled.
1. Big Belly Breaths
Taking big, nourishing breaths of air can be an often-overlooked tactic for self-care. Often, when we’re stressed or feeling anxious our breathing becomes shallow and quickened. As a result, our bodies release cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can make us feel panicked and out of control. Taking deep belly breaths can help lower the heart rate, blood pressure and reduce overall body tension.
Action Item: Try incorporating a few deep belly breaths sporadically throughout your day. They are super simple and I promise, worth every delicious – oxygenating second!
Here is a helpful guide put together by the University of Michigan, Stress Management Program to help you get started.
- Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.
- Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.
- Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out.
- Do this breathing 3 to 10 times. Take your time with each breath.
- Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.
2. Give Yourself A Compliment
When we give ourselves permission to acknowledge our self-worth, there is an actual chemical response that manifests in our bodies. When someone gives you a compliment, usually the response is that you feel happy. This is because the compliment gets filed in your brain in (what is non-scientifically referred to as) the pleasure center. In turn a chemical called oxytocin is released. Oxytocin is the happy hormone! It makes us feel good. Developing a positive self-care routine can help improve our self-confidence and esteem, both of which have been show to decrease our levels of stress and anxiety and increase our production of oxytocin on a daily basis.
Action Item: When you look in the mirror practice giving yourself one compliment. It may feel strange at first but the more you get in the habit of it, the more likely your body will manifest that good energy.
3. Do A Downward Dog
During prolonged periods of stress, it’s not unlikely to feel physical repercussions in the form of poor digestion, sleep and irritability. Before you power down for the evening, try getting into a downward dog for just a few minutes. Start with your feet hips width apart, and crawl out into a plank, gently lifting your bum into the air while simultaneously tucking your tailbone under. With your hands now shoulder width apart, welcome any movement that feels necessary. Getting upside down for a few minutes helps promote motility in your tummy (think of it as a good little gut massage!). In addition, think about the downward dog like this, if things maybe didn’t pan out during the day, a new perspective before bed never hurt anyone.
Action Item: Get into a few minutes’ worth of downward dog each night before bed. Preferably accompanied by some good, deep, breaths.
4. A Little TLC
The next time you find yourself with a few extra minutes, try giving yourself a temple massage. A season of increasing obligations can make our heads feel like a pressure-cooker. Try this easy self-guided massage to alleviate some of the tension and promote a little more self-care.
Action Item: Place your thumbs at the end of your cheekbones, at the intersection of your hairline and ears. Using your index fingers, apply pressure to your temples (the little curvature between your cheeks and your forehead) by moving your fingers in a small circular motion. Gradually move up your hairline, tracing the outline of your face, perhaps experimenting with varying degrees of pressure where you feel the most tension.
If you have essential oils, try rubbing some in the palm of your hand for a boost of aroma therapy.
5. Go Phone Free
It’s no secret searching the interwebs can be a source of added stress. It’s so easy to get lost scrolling social media, so try putting your phone away (or on airplane mode) at least one hour before you go to bed. If you can, try making it a priority to power off completely. The blue light emitted from all our technology can be a source of heightened stress whether we feel immediately affected by it or not.
Action Item: Try powering down 45 minutes to an hour before bed. Use the extra time to do some light stretching/yoga, or getting caught up on that book you’ve been putting off for a while.
6. Take A Hike...Or A Walk
You may be thinking, “the holidays are busy enough as it is, I don’t have extra time to go for a walk!” And while that may be true, I promise it’s possible to find a few extra minutes throughout the day to hit refresh without having to carve out too much time for it. If you’re at work, the next time you need to take a trip to the restroom, leave your phone behind and take the long way back to your desk. Hop outside for a minute or so and take a few deep breaths. Being outside, if only for five minutes is a really gentle way to unload some of the chaos of your day, breathing in all the fall foliage and simply taking time for yourself.
Action Item: Leave your phone where it is, bundle yourself in a cozy sweater and get outside for however many minutes you can. Whether it be for 5 or 25 minutes, enjoy the unencumbered “you time!”
7. Start A Gratitude List
Whenever you have a few free minutes, try writing down 10 things you’re grateful for. Putting pen to paper can be an extremely cathartic exercise in articulating what all you have to be grateful for. The list doesn’t have to be reserved for gratitude either. You can write 10 things you’re looking forward to in the New Year, 10 things you’re proud of this past year, or 10 goals you have for yourself. The practice of writing down what’s been cooped up in your mind can help manifest positive energy in your daily life – the practice of journaling has been traditional for a reason!
Action Item: Write down 10 things you’re grateful for every day – trying not to repeat any one thing, twice!