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With all of its whimsy and wonder, the holiday season has arrived. And while many people revel in the magic of bright-eyed children and good cheer, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can leave us lacking in the self-care department. There are cookies to bake, parties to plan, parades to attend, gifts to wrap, house guests to accommodate, halls to deck…

…and self-care tends to slip down to the bottom of our priority list.

The spirit of the holiday season isn’t rooted in stress. It’s rooted in celebration and kindness. In faith and love. Somewhere along the line, that sentiment was replaced with a million other “needs”—and not one of them is self-care.

Fortunately, all it takes is a little planning—and a promise to yourself—to stay healthy, well-rounded and grounded during the holiday season.

Here are five ways to prioritize self-care during the holidays:

1. Exercise! Exercise is a natural mood-booster, helping to reduce stress, promote concentration, and kick depression to the curb. In only 10 minutes of exercise, your brain will begin to produce serotonin and dopamine—the same hormones targeted by antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications. The holidays are busy, and it’s easy to skip your workout in order to make time for seasonal activities… but even if you can only carve out time for a 10-minute walk, it’s important to maintain the healthy habit of daily exercise.2. Get grateful. The simple act of asking yourself, What am I grateful for? promotes the development of serotonin and dopamine in your brain… even if you can’t come up with an answer! Get into the habit of thinking of something your grateful for at the end of every day—it will help keep you grounded in the spirit of the holiday season, while promoting a more stable and upbeat mood.

3. Sleep well. Staying up late to wrap presents or to enjoy the company of friends and family at a party is par for the course during the holiday season. But don’t let your late nights get out of hand. Lack of sleep can cause weight gain, irritability, and heightened stress levels. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, eliminate caffeine after 2pm, exercise daily, and avoid eating for at least three hours before hitting the sheets.

4. Avoid emotional eating and drinking. The holidays aren’t joyful for everyone. Whether grieving the loss of a loved one, anticipating tense interactions with family, or experiencing financial hardship, the holidays often goes hand-in-hand with higher stress levels and hard-to-handle emotions. And that’s okay… but allow yourself to feel these feelings, rather than use food or alcohol to avoid them. The more you sit with your emotions, the easier it will get to process them in a productive way.

5. Stay present in the moment. Each moment is a gift… that’s why they call it the present. Give yourself the gift of the present moment this holiday season. When you begin to get sucked into the stress of party planning and baking and shopping and wrapping… stop, and focus on something you feel good about right there in that moment.

Remember, most of the standards we hold ourselves to during the holiday season are self-imposed. Instead of creating stress, give yourself permission to sit back and relax a bit more. 10, 20 or 30 years from now, you won’t remember that pecan pie you baked from scratch, or how you wrapped each gift with a perfectly spiraling ribbon; you’ll remember the good times you spent with your family and friends, laughing, and making memories.

Contact Creative Counseling Center

If the holidays are difficult for you, and you find yourself struggling with seasonal depression or anxiety, our counselors can help. Contact us to schedule a free phone consultation today. We’ll talk about what you’re feeling, and partner you with the therapist who is best equipped to support your emotional and mental growth.

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