Searching for a way to wind down and relax during the holidays? One of the first things to go neglected at this festive yet stressful time of year is self-care. We’re so busy planning, shopping, communicating, coordinating, and celebrating that we tend to push aside our calming and stress-relieving rituals. That’s when holiday fun becomes holiday headaches. We need a break from the stress!
We skip the gym to bake and eat cookies. We opt out of yoga class and stay up late to catch up with chores that we missed while out shopping or merrymaking. Instead of taking it easy after a long day, we just pile more tasks onto our to-do list. Holiday time is surely delightful, but the amount of added anxiety can at times, become frightful.
It’s the old proverbial cup: we can’t expect to take care of others’ needs if the cup of our own replenishment has run dry. This is where making time for self-care becomes critical to our enjoyment of the holidays.
Self-care encompasses any activity that you do to shut off your mind, relax, and relieve stress. Tension accumulates in our muscles throughout the busy day. We need to get rid of that stress – either through exercise or through mindful (or mindless?) relaxation. This is where self-care comes in.
Self-care helps us turn our minds off. We have technology to thank for keeping our minds constantly active, engaged and on high alert. If we’re not responding to messages or answering calls, we’re using our smartphones to schedule plans, find information, or search out answers to the questions that boggle our brains.
Exercise is one of the best stress-relieving forms of self-care. It’s up to you where and how you choose to alleviate anxiety by stretching and exercising your muscles. Here’s an interesting fact: weight-bearing exercise, like jogging, helps the body hold onto calcium. So not only does a self-care ritual like running a few times a week strengthen your muscles and cardiovascular system, but it also apparently is good for your bones.
You don’t have to wait until New Years’ resolutions kick in to start up a gym membership. For busy mums who need a break from the kids and some me-time, the gym can be an ideal way to offload stress from your busy holiday routine. Use the cardio machines, do some reps with weights. Or, sign up for a spin class or some instructor-led yoga. Just a few days a week can mean a real difference in your outlook and bring stress levels way down.
What if the gym just isn’t your thing? Not everyone thrives in this type of social environment. Maybe you prefer to have peace and quiet during exercise. Maybe watching other gym members coming and going is not your idea of relaxation. Slip in a half-hour of jogging outdoors. Work your core muscles using the exercise ball or get your heart rate up with a fitness hula hoop. Do it on your own time, in your own space.
At-home workouts can greatly relieve stress. This is a great form of exercise that you don’t have to leave the house to enjoy. Exercise any time of day or night, even in your underwear. Pilates, tae-bo, tai-chi on video, zumba… all are available on video to follow along with. You can also invest in an exercise bike, elliptical machine or even a treadmill if you’ve got the space.
Yoga is a major stress reliever. If you’ve never done yoga before, why not head on over to YouTube and follow along with a video or two to get a sample of what’s involved and how great you’ll feel when you’re finished. If you’d prefer to first read up on the amazing benefits of yoga, master the poses, and learn about how yoga came to be and how it fits so well with today’s fast-paced lifestyle, then start with a “yoga bible” type of book.
Hula hooping with a fitness hoop combines exercise with dance. If you love grooving to funky beats and want exercise to be more about fun and music, and less about reps and counting… then mail-order yourself an adult hula hoop. Fitness hula hoops aren’t like the light plastic hula hoops you’d find in the kids’ toy aisles of your favourite retail outfit. They’re designed for adults and properly weighted for ease of use. Fitness-geared hula hoops are sized according to the height and weight of the person using them, so be sure to check into this so you can get the proper fit.
Self-care does not have to mean exercise, though certainly in many cases exercise helps us look and feel better. In some cases, self-care simply means reducing stress by indulging in pastimes that relax us and provide enjoyment.
Meditation and essential oils provide a nice, pleasantly-scented way to wind down. They also make perfect holiday gifts for the ladies on your list… your wife, mother, best friend or adult daughter, who may be seeking relief from stress in her life.
Did you know that some essential oils have naturally occurring compounds that act as a mild sedative and can relieve stress? Lemon oil clears the mind and relieves anxiety. Cinnamon oil helps us to feel calm and emotionally grounded. Lavender oil promotes relaxation and restful sleep. Chamomile oil has the same, sedative effect when you breathe it in as it does if you sipped a cup of chamomile tea. At the end of a busy day, you may find relief after diffusing some essential oils while reading, sipping a cup of hot tea, knitting or enjoying your favourite television show.
Crafting is a form of self-care. Studies confirm that knitting, crocheting and other types of handicrafts have a calming effect on the human brain. It is possible that the repetition involved with doing such work relieves the mind of obsessive thoughts, as does keeping the hands busy.
If productivity is your aim during the Christmas season or any time of year, then keep this in mind. The better care we take of ourselves, the more energy we’ll have left to do the things we truly love and want to do.