Six Radical Self-Care Strategies To Help You Survive the Holiday Season - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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Everyday Living
November 21, 2019

Six Radical Self-Care Strategies To Help You Survive the Holiday Season

It’s that time of year again. Many people are filled with excitement about the upcoming winter holidays, and others are filled with dread. Some find the season totally sublime—others find it totally stressful. The heightened expectations and energetic demands can easily suck you dry, especially if you’re already running on low as the year winds down.

Many people are coping with winter depression due to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). For those grieving a loss, it’s an especially painful time of year. Individuals who are trying to manage depression year-round often find that the additional stress of the holidays and the pressure to “be of good cheer” can intensify feelings of sadness and hopelessness.

There is no better time to become friendly with radical self-care than over an especially challenging holiday season. Does this make you feel a little “selfish?” If you don’t prioritize your own health and needs, you’ll have no overflow to share with others. We cannot pour from empty cups.

If you’re not taking good care of yourself, you’re limiting your ability to be of service to your family, friends, coworkers, and classmates. Your capacity to give to others is directly tied to your ability to be generous and nurturing with yourself. Consider this affirmation from grief coach Carrie Doubts:

“I am nurturing myself first as a way of creating capacity to care for others and engage wholeheartedly in life.”

Here are six ideas to try this year to help you navigate the holidays with grace and ease.

1) Create a morning ritual.

If you typically run from bed to shower to front door in 30 minutes or less, you’re setting yourself up for a frazzled day. Set aside 10-15 minutes somewhere in there during which you sit quietly and contemplate, meditate, or read scripture. Making time for yourself first thing lets you move through your day with more balance and intention.

2) Just say “no thank-you” to invites.

For many people, the pressure around this time of year to be social and upbeat is overwhelming. Instead of faking happy and betraying your real feelings, get comfortable opting out of gatherings.

Aviva Romm M.D. believes “Saying no to what you don’t want is saying yes to yourself.” With every request to join in some get-together that comes your way, notice if your heart’s authentic reaction is a “Heck yes!” or a “No way!”

Musician and inspirational speaker Karen Drucker asks if your answer is a “no,” “are you willing to honor yourself and possibly have some discomfort telling the person your truth?” Weigh the difference between a moment of discomfort while saying “no” against the resentment you may feel in forcing yourself to do something you really don’t want to do. Drucker shares, “It’s not always easy, but I am learning how to take care of myself by saying no to what doesn’t serve me.”

Another option is to compromise. If it’s an event that you feel you really should attend, even if only briefly, vow to do just that. Let the host know ahead of time you can only stop in for a quick “hello.” Drive your own car so you can leave when ready, and stick to the time frame you’ve allotted for this visit.

3) Get outside at every opportunity.

Nothing can clear your head and calm amped-up emotions faster that a walk in nature. It shifts brain chemistry and encourages the prefrontal cortex to relax, which helps you worry less. Time outside gets you away from the over-stimulating and energy-draining effects of noise, light, odors, and demands on your attention from people—both in person and via social media and your phone.

You can do some power walking to get the lungs, heart, endorphins, and serotonin pumping, or you can just stroll. Savor the soothing simplicity of moving your body at a leisurely pace while you turn your mental attention to the natural beauty that surrounds you. If you can focus on breathing deeply and remain silent while walking, even better.

4) Watch a favorite uplifting movie or stand-up comedy special.

When was the last time you consciously chose entertainment to help elevate your mood? It can be surprisingly effective. But here are the rules:

  •     The movie has to be positive and inspirational (Think: love story, romantic comedy, nature documentary, biography). No horror flicks or crime stories.
  •     The comedian has to be one you find laugh-out-loud funny. Laughter has both short- and long-term benefits and is an exceptional stress reliever.
  •     You must refrain from checking your email, social media feeds, and phone during the show.

5) Find the joy in eating a special meal.

Set aside one night each week to indulge in a truly sumptuous feast, as defined only by you. Maybe it’s recreating a favorite meal your deceased grandmother used to cook just for you. Perhaps it’s honing your culinary skills by challenging yourself to try a new gourmet recipe that serves one.

If cooking’s not your thing, consider:

  •     Heading over to the prepared-foods section of your local Whole Foods Market or neighborhood deli and assembling your already-made dream meal.
  •     Ordering home delivery from your favorite take-out joint.

Don’t worry about how balanced or clean the meal is. What matters is that it feeds your soul and nourishes your heart. Eat slowly, giving complete attention to the taste, texture, and aromas.

6) Present friends and relatives with the gift of your time.

Ditch the stress of overspending this year. Let everyone on your gift list know you’ll be doing something for them instead of buying something. Maybe you watch your brother’s kids once a month so he and your sister-in-law can have regular date nights. Does your dad need a partner next spring to help transform the backyard into the English garden your mother’s been dreaming of?

You can also volunteer your time with a nonprofit organization, dedicating the effort to your loved ones. Tell your sister her gift from you is six Saturdays spent walking shelter dogs. Let your best friend know that because of his passion for recycling, you’re joining a roadside trash pick-up group.

Commit to some creative, self-nurturing ways to keep your tank topped off over the winter holidays and deep into 2020. As Dr. Aviva Romm advises, “Running on empty doesn’t serve us—or those we care for.”

If you’d like to learn more about professions that enable you to serve wholeheartedly and faithfully in your life’s work or want to learn more about a biblically-based, Christ-centered education at Geneva, we’d love to chat with you. For more information on how Geneva College can help you pursue your education goals, please phone us at 855-979-5563 or email