More Magic, Less Mania

If you've ever gotten sick or felt run down over the holidays, you've experienced the results of holiday stress.  You could blame it on cold weather, or the dehydrating effects of indoor heat, or being around other people who are sick, but at this time of the year you are likely

  • cleaning
  • planning
  • spending
  • socializing
  • eating 
  • drinking
  • and doing more
while resting and recharging less.

If self-care isn't something you usually do, and you keep insisting on putting everything else before your own needs, you probably go into overdrive during the holidays.  You go out of your way to make sure that everything is perfect, and that everyone has "the best holiday ever."  Sound familiar?

If you fall into that mode, or you're just interested in enjoying more magic and less mania during the next several weeks, try one or more of these simple tips.

25 Ways to Take Care of Yourself This Holiday Season

1.  Create a morning routine.

Take a little time for yourself first thing so you can move through your day with more serenity.  Even a five minute routine will help, but take 15 minutes or even more if you can.  Use the time to sip a cup of tea or coffee, journal, pray or meditate, read a spiritual book or a poem, take a walk or do some yoga or stretches – anything that feeds your body, heart, mind, and soul.

2.  Respect your budget.

Once you figure out how much you can spend on gifts, events, and socializing, honor that.  If you splurge now, you pay later, so add financial peace of mind to your holidays and the new year ahead.

3.  Do some pre-holiday decluttering.

Make room for the holidays by tackling one or more decluttering tasks, and help the whole family feel less overwhelmed by holiday bustle and stress.  You don't need to do an intense purge – you're simply setting the stage for all that the holiday will bring.  Here is the perfect guide.

4.  Take a walk.

Bundle up if it's cold or wet, but get outside.  Don't count steps or track yourself; simply enjoy the freedom of movement and the fresh air.  Look for what is beautiful – the sky, the trees, birds, holiday lights, scents of baking, cheerful hellos.

5.  Unschedule.

Make room on your calendar for things that make the holidays meaningful to you, and cancel activities that just make you busy.

6.  Enjoy candlelight.

I love lighting a candle on my desk while I work, or one on a side table while I read or listen to music.  As the sun sets earlier and earlier, I enjoy beginning the evening by lighting a candle, but the glow of a single candle brightens any cloudy day.

7.  Decorate with your favorite things.

If you've been collecting holiday décor for years, chances are your favorite things are lost in the jumble and have no chance to shine.

This year, do less.  Choose your favorite holiday collection (Santas?  Angels?  Menorahs?  A crèche?) and create a mantel or sideboard display.  Set a tray of candles or a bowl of shiny ornaments on the coffee or dining table.  Tuck in some sprigs of fresh evergreen or a holiday plant, or toss a couple of holiday pillows on the sofa.

Now live with the results for a couple of days.  How do you feel?  Do these small festive touches satisfy you?  You've saved hours unpacking and dusting.  Can you put everything else back in storage (or even donate it)?

8.  Avoid adding to your clutter.

For each thing that enters, let at least one thing depart.  Let this apply to gifts, clothing, decorations, everything.

9.  Regift.

Finding the perfect gift can be stressful and expensive.  Instead, give something of value that you already own (Tolkien's hobbits call this a "mathom").  Give a friend a favorite book, and write a dedication inside.  Give a beautiful vase you never use (fill it with a fresh bouquet), a pretty pair of earrings you never wear, the practically-brand-new stand mixer that gathers dust, the completely unused Moleskine notebook you bought to look cool, the extra LED tactical flashlight that came in the twin pack, or look for other things you can pass on with love.

10.  Eat well.

Indulge in your favorite holiday treats, but eat healthfully 80% to 90% of the time.  You'll appreciate how good it makes you feel!  Don't eat junk you don't really care about just because it's there in front of you, but do savor small servings of your favorites.  You don't have to clean your plate, try a bit of everything, or drink because everyone else does.

11.  Make something.

Get creative.  It's scientifically proven to lower stress, increase concentration, and improve your mood.  Write a poem, draw a picture, paint a rock, try a new recipe or a new knitting pattern, put together a luxurious, all-natural body scrub, craft some Christmas ornaments, or get outside and build a snowman.

12.  Accept imperfection.

Stop fussing.  Choose to let go of comparison and unreasonable expectations.  Give the holidays a chance to surprise and delight you.

13.  Nap

Let your brain and body recharge.  Even half an hour can make a difference to your outlook and energy level.

14.  Go internet-light.

Is hyper-connectivity raising your stress levels?  Try to remember the last conversation you had that wasn't interrupted by a ring or a ding.  Observe people in any restaurant, grocery store, or waiting room and see what percentage are buried in a screen.  You can scale back if you want to.

15.  Read an actual book.

Close your digital devices and curl up with a good book.  Instead of reading something for work or self-improvement, read something for enjoyment.  My favorites this year include The Book of Lost Friends, I Capture the Castle, and Cloud Cuckoo Land.*

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16.  Write.

Emotions can run high at holiday time, but much of what is in our heads never needs to be said out loud.  Instead, write it down.  Write about what makes you happy, sad, nostalgic, angry, or frustrated.  Put it on paper to clear your mind and lighten your baggage.

17.  Say goodbye to guilt.

First, determine if you are actually guilty.  Sometimes, what feels like guilt isn't – it's sadness that you couldn't be more helpful, disappointment that you didn't achieve what you hoped to do, or anger that you said "yes" to something that deserved a "no."  Do what you can with joy, and let go of the guilt that says it isn't enough.  It is.

18.  Laugh.

Call or spend time with the person who makes you laugh the hardest.  Pop in a funny holiday movie and enjoy it with a friend.  My funny Top Five:  The Muppet Christmas Carol, Elf, White Christmas, the original Miracle on 34th Street, and Home Alone.

19.  Apologize.

This isn't about winning or about being right.  It's about peace.  If you can't apologize for what happened, say, "I'm sorry we're not as close as we were; can we start over?" or "I'm sorry I hurt you."

20.  Forgive.

In the Biblical story of the first Christmas, angels sing about "peace on earth, goodwill toward men."  Our world doesn't exhibit much peace, not between nations, and sometimes not even within families.  Carrying a grudge won't make you happy, but forgiveness will heal your heart.

And by the way, you don't need an apology to forgive.

21.  Breathe.

Overwhelmed?  Frustrated?  Take a moment and breathe.  Worried?  Exhausted?  Try a few deep breaths.  Let them clear your head and calm you down.

22.  Stop.

Sometimes taking time to breathe isn't enough.  If you've already overdone it, consider a full stop.  Take a whole day and vow to do nothing more than take care of yourself.

23.  Be thankful.

Paying attention to the goodness in our lives is scientifically proven to improve our health, relationships, energy levels, emotional well-being, and sleep.  Life feels abundant when we're grateful for all that we have instead of constantly longing for more.

24.  Give.

There are many more opportunities to give than simply exchanging presents with people who already have plenty.  In fact, giving hugs or showing compassion causes our brains to produce oxytocin, a neurochemical which reduces anxiety and increases optimism.  So smile at everyone you meet.  Put a dollar in the Salvation Army bucket.  Pick a charity close to your heart and volunteer or write a generous check.

25.  Remember why you're celebrating.

It's easy, and soul-deadening, to go through the motions.  What do you want to celebrate?  Perhaps you want to focus on the life and teachings of Jesus.  Maybe it's the lights, sparkle, music, and upbeat atmosphere that excite you.  If you love to cook and bake, Christmas may be a time to indulge those interests.  Maybe the holiday is a great excuse to hang out with friends and family.  Or maybe what you most desire is a sense of hope, peace, and goodwill.  Find your "why," and let it guide your budget, your schedule, and your expectations.

Don't let this season fly by in an exhausting, anxious blur.  Give yourself and everyone you love a more peaceful, joyous holiday.

P. S.  If you enjoyed this post, you might like my book, A Minimalist Holidayavailable on Amazon.

Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash


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