In his classic song, Andy Williams sings “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” but that’s likely because he’s not a mom putting every last ounce of energy into trying to make the whole experience magical for everyone.
Andy has a point, though – the holidays are supposed to be a special and memorable time with the people we care about. The challenge is, how do we avoid getting bogged down in the to-do lists, stresses, obligations and extra tasks that come with this month?
The answer is: a modified “mini” version of self-care. We need to do little things to keep our morale up and our spirits bright. No one has time for elaborate self-care indulgences, so we have to get by on small doses. Elf-sized, if you will. Maybe “elf-care” would be a better term?
Self-care (even the mini kind) should be personalized, so do whatever works for you. If Christmas music and its repeating “pa-rum-pa-pum-pums” set your teeth on edge, then avoid that, for goodness’ sake. Here are some small-scale tactics for you to try:
Escape. Curling up with a good book may not be feasible at this time of year, but you can stash a festive magazine in your bag, to flip through at your kids’ activities or while waiting for the school holiday concert to begin. Even if you don’t end up making that chocolate-candy cane bark recipe, it’s fun to look at the pictures.
Breathe. You may not have time for a full-fledged yoga or meditation class, but a few deep breaths can go a long way. Once the kids are all buckled into the car, close the door and take 10 seconds to regroup before you get in. Turn toward the vehicle, lower your head, inhale, then exhale deeply, feeling your shoulders rise and fall. Repeat a couple of times until you feel calm (or until your passengers start yelling and banging on the window).
Sip on the go. We’d rather be wrapped in a polar fleece blanket, sipping from a steaming mug of tea and watching the snow fall gently outside, but guess what? We’ve got errands. Treat yourself to a hot beverage from the drive-thru and savour it at every red light.
Pause. If the universe hands you some unexpected bonus time, grab it. For example, your toddler falls asleep on the drive home and miraculously doesn’t wake up when you pull in. Stay in the car and cherish those few extra minutes to finish your coffee, listen to some Christmas music on the radio, or just have some quiet time.
Sneak out. Get a hit of fresh air and vitamin D any way you can, especially on sunny days. At work, pretend you have to go outside to retrieve something from your car. At lunch, do a walking errand or take a short stroll around the block. Anything to brighten your day for a few minutes.
Flash back. Stuck waiting in line? Scroll back in your phone’s photo gallery to find images or videos from last Christmas. It will remind you of the special moments and memories of last year, and give you perspective on what really matters.
Chill. You likely don’t have 90 free minutes to watch a beloved holiday movie with your kids. Still, when they’re watching and your favourite part comes on, drop what you’re doing and tune in. It might be just enough nostalgia to recharge your batteries before you continue the desperate search for your star-shaped cookie cutter.
Reach out. Send a simple message (snail mail or electronic) to someone who will really appreciate the warm holiday wishes. It might be someone who lives far away, who has lost someone this past year, or who is having a happy milestone such as Baby’s First Christmas. It doesn’t take much, and it leaves both the sender and recipient feeling good.
Scrub. To add a splash of holiday cheer to your morning routine, select a body wash or hand soap with a merry scent such as candy cane, gingerbread or pine.
Set limits. In addition to coping in the moment, self-care can involve anticipating situations that cause undue stress, and making the appropriate adjustments. If hosting a large dinner will cause you sleepless nights, have a brunch or potluck lunch instead. If being overbooked makes you feel frazzled, be selective when accepting invitations to parties or events.
This year, giving yourself these little pick-me-ups and micro-breaks might be just enough to keep you feeling jolly instead of Grinch-y. It is a wonderful time, and you deserve to enjoy it.