Do you have any special holiday traditions? If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you already know how important I think rituals are to our daily lives—like morning meditations, easy movement, journaling and nightime routines that help you wind down and relax. Well, we can turn our holiday traditions into a form of self-care too!
It’s true, the sense of connection and community we gain from decorating a tree together, exchanging gifts, attending parties or spiritual celebrations, or even just checking in with one another helps us handle this stressful time of year.
Here are a few simple guidelines to help you set up and sleigh (sorry, had to!) your self-care this holiday season.
The Science of Self-Care
Carla Marie Manly, PhD, a California-based clinical psychologist, reminds us that while holiday traditions can sometimes feel like extra work or an obligation, they don’t have to be. They can also be a form of self-care.
By spending quality time with our friends and family to toast the season, we benefit two-fold. First, our brains are stimulated and our mood is boosted. Plus, the familiarity of a repeated ritual helps reduce our stress levels (which is why I put such an emphasis on rituals all the time).
Secondly, we feel part of a community, which is hard-wired into human beings – we want to belong. It makes us feel safe, cared for and supported.
When we carry out a long-standing tradition, we’re reminded of loved ones from the past and feel their influence on our current lives. One study showed that rituals can actually help us feel closer to our family members and enjoy the holidays more.
But even if you’re planning on creating some new rituals this year, sharing a piece of yourself with potential future generations also ignites our feel-good hormones. We all want to make the world a better place.
Healthy Holiday Traditions
Not every holiday tradition is going to be good for our health. A marathon shopping spree or cookie eating party might not leave you feeling merry and bright. So here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your December bucket list, to make sure you include some self-care celebrating.
1) Slow down.
Just because the world is rushing from place to place, doesn’t mean you have to join in. Find activities that allow you and your loved ones to savor the moment and promote mindfulness. Maybe a yoga class with your best friends or just sitting together and sipping your morning coffee with your parents.
How about trading sugary break-and-bake cookies for trying out a new healthier recipe together? Or taking a walk to look at lights up in the neighborhood. You’ll get more out of your traditions when they don’t fly by.
2) Focus on the experience, not the execution.
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. What’s most important about holiday traditions is that you’re fostering a connection between everyone, not how perfect your IG pics look or whether all the kiddos behave like angels or how beautiful your decorations are. As long as everyone is in good spirits, a few spills or delays don’t matter. Don’t sweat the small stuff!
If you’re a die-hard perfectionist, and struggle with guilt around not meeting your own expectations, I got you. Be sure to check out this Self-Forgiving and Judgement Detox.
3) Appreciate the little things.
Like I said, your traditions don’t have to be flashy. It’s the small details, like the twinkling lights on the tree or crisp wrapping paper or steam of a warm beverage, that make our hearts sing during the holidays.
So here’s a simple ritual that is also a great form of self-care. Gather your loved ones, even if it’s over Zoom or Facetime, and ask everyone to share something they really enjoy about this time of year and why, but no repeats! At the end, you’ll know a little more about each other, and you’ll cultivate gratitude and joy!
4) Set healthy boundaries.
Over-committing should not be a holiday tradition! It’s okay to say no to participating in things that make you uncomfortable or drain your energy, even if they are long-standing traditions. Self-care is about listening to your body and giving it what it needs. And sometimes that is rest. Or alone time. (And P.S. You can also set up self-care holiday traditions with just yourself!)
Natalie Capano, a licensed mental health counselor with Cobb Psychotherapy in NYC, suggests a “yes but” alternative when you don’t want to give a flat out NO. Yes, you’ll go hear your friend’s show, but you won’t go out for drinks after. Yes, you’ll visit your relatives to decorate the tree, but you won’t be staying to watch Home Alone. You get the picture…
So, what holiday traditions do you enjoy? Do you have other questions about self-care during the holidays? Let me know in the comments below or post in the Badass Beauty Club on Facebook.