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Christmas self-care: 8 tips

Whether you plan to take from December 24 until January 4 off, or will only step away from your desk for Christmas Day and Boxing Day, I encourage people to embrace the holiday season as an opportunity to take better care of themselves.

One psychologist I know takes this idea to an extreme, and I think he may have something. He and his wife told their family and friends years ago that they are unavailable over Christmas. They take the season to cocoon. They don’t buy presents. They don’t visit with anyone. Instead, they take the 10 days that they have off from work and let go of all the responsibilities they normally carry during the year.

This approach is a novel one and holds a lot of merit. Our society doesn’t encourage us to take good care of ourselves. But why not try this approach, to whatever extent that you can, this holiday season?

Here are some additional, less extreme ideas of things you can do so that you will begin the new year feeling rested.

  1. Give yourself a set budget of how much you can spend on presents. So far I’ve suggested nothing new. But maybe also try limiting the amount of time you spend shopping for presents. Once the allocated time is up, you’re done. It’s amazing how much more efficient you may find yourself to be if you know the clock is ticking and that you can only accomplish so much.
  2. Limit the number of holiday functions you will attend. Be realistic about how much time you want to invest in socializing. Then pick and choose from among the options until you narrow down the list to only those events you really want to participate in. Have a number of “duty” events you can’t get out of? Plan to attend them, but slip away as soon as you can. It’s amazing how much energy you can save by leaving after the dinner dishes are cleared at the company party.
  3. Look at how tired you are, and the number of days you have off, and then allocate the number of the days off that you will use to get rested. Set yourself a schedule so that you can get in enough “pyjama days” so that you can begin to feel rested again.
  4. This notion may come as a surprise, but don’t spend your vacation looking after tasks on your to do list. This may sound counter intuitive, but if you spend the holidays resting, you will have more energy available to tackle the items on your to do list come the New Year. If you don’t rest, and spend your days off being productive instead, you might end up with a freshly painted living room but you may also be bone weary, which doesn’t sound like a good trade-off. If it’s an option, you might want to consider hiring painters to help you instead.
  5. Add a couple of activities to your list that you really want to do. Never have the time to ski? Then get out and hit the slopes. Same goes for tobogganing with your kids, or seeing a movie at the theatre.
  6. Feel compelled to create a holiday meal like your grandmother used to put on? Those meals were truly memorably, but you can wait to put them together until you are a grandparent yourself. For now, you might want to consider buying pre-packaged foods at Costco so that you can have more pyjama time, which is what you need.
  7. Say no. When the phone rings and unexpected friends want to come round, be prepared to say no if you need the time to yourself.
  8. Research shows that the best way to stave off burnout is to have a regular exercise routine. Don’t have one? Now is a great time to explore a new gym. Already have one? Don’t fall out of your normal routine because you are vacation. Your body will thank you come January first.

Happy Holidays from Dr. Patricia Turner

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