But, of course, this year the holidays will look very different for all of us. Rather than a whirlwind of get togethers with friends and loved ones, celebrating must be done while staying close to home, social distancing and probably doing most of our shopping online. In the midst of all of this, some of us may also be struggling with financial woes due to job loss, illness or even grieving loved ones lost to the virus.
So much stress, sadness and uncertainty during what is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year” can be incredibly draining on all of us. The good news is that since we already know the holiday season is going to look different, we can plan ahead to give ourselves the self-care we may need in order to enjoy simpler new forms of fun and festivities.
This year, we may even start some wonderful new traditions with those closest to us.
Here are some self-care tips to embrace during the 2020 holiday season, so you can stress less and enjoy the experience more.
1. Acknowledge this year will be totally different from past holiday seasons.
Giving up treasured holiday traditions is not going to be easy for anyone, from children to grandparents and every age in between. The good news is, none of us is alone in facing this stark new reality! We’re all up against the same strangeness of this holiday season, so try to embrace the opportunity to experience the time in an entirely new way.
What can you really focus on this year that you may not have had time for in past years? Giving to others? Improving yourself? Strengthening family ties? This year may be the one chance we have to redefine our holiday experience!
2. Give yourself permission to prioritize self-care.
Remember, you and your emotional/psychological needs matter now more than ever. Our culture tends to encourage exhaustion with a “keep going, keep working, keep spending” mindset—exactly the kinds of messages that drain us during the holidays.
But this holiday season can be different! After all, if there is one gift the pandemic has given us, it is permission to slow down, stay in and focus on the health and wellbeing of ourselves and our families. When we take time to take care of ourselves, we have more to give others. So buck the “go go go” trend and exercise your “NO” muscle this year. When you do give, give out of fullness of heart and spirit, not exhaustion and pressure.
3. Take little moments for yourself every day.
It can feel selfish to take time to relax. Yet healthy stress management requires daily intentional down time. And when we give to ourselves, we have more to give to others. Set aside time (it can be as little as 5 – 15 minutes) to reflect, pray, relax, take a walk, read, do nothing, even watch a favorite episode or two Netflix. (Just be careful to contain the binge watching to avoid losing track of your time – I know, I know, it is so tempting.)
Make room every morning and evening for daily quiet time. Reflecting on our place in this world is very powerful and can motivate us to give and connect with others.
4. Savor the season.
There are so many intimate sights, sounds, smells and tastes to enjoy this time of year, and you have full permission to enjoy them completely, regardless of the pandemic! So go ahead – indulge in that cup of cinnamon tea, crank up the Christmas music and string your home with more lights than ever before. Then sit back, put your feet up and just enjoy taking it all in.
Research suggests that focusing our attention in this way (also known as mindfulness) helps us to truly relax.
5. Maintain healthy sleep, exercise and eating habits.
At holiday time, it’s tempting to fill up on cookies and treats, sacrifice sleep to take on gift wrapping, and abandon your workout routine. However, sleep, exercise and healthy eating are all foundational to your ability to manage stress. Refer back to tip number two and remember to take the very best care of YOU!
6. Moderate your expectations.
Yes, as mentioned above, healthy living includes moderating eating and drinking. However, also think about moderating your expectations of the season and yourself. Striving for perfection is exhausting! This year, how about striving for “good enough”— instead of stressing to create the “perfect” tree, meal, gift experience, etc., perfection might look like:
- Ordering takeout instead of making a complicated holiday meal.
- Ditching fancy holiday outfits and getting into some festive pajamas early.
- Enjoying quiet nights at home with your family reading Christmas books or watching holiday movies by candlelight.
7. Connect with others in new ways.
Remember that the real purpose of the holidays is to connect with your loved ones, your friends and God. As human beings, we need to love and be loved. So as you’re making your holiday plans, focus on how your activities can help you make emotional connections. You may not be able to visit the out-of-town relatives this year, but how about a Zoom gift opening session? Door to door caroling is out, but you can always surprise your neighbors with goodies dropped off at the doorstep. Cancelled holiday banquets, school concerts and visits to Santa means more time for winter walks around the neighborhood, baking to favorite holiday music and family puzzles in front of the fireplace.
The more intimacy we have, the more resilient we are. Happy holidays to you!
Dr. Ronald J. De Vries, PhD is a Fully Licensed Psychologist working at the Pine Rest Kalamazoo Clinic. He completed his internship training at the Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center Outpatient Clinic approved by the American Psychological Association. Dr. DeVries earned his Bachelor in Psychology from Calvin College. He earned both his Master in Theology and his Doctoral in Clinical Psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary.
He works with adults and adolescents. His primary areas of expertise include depression (mood disorders), anxiety disorders, relationship issues, grief and loss, forgiveness, shame and guilt, recovery issues related to substance abuse, and adoption/foster families.