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Little Ways to Take Care of Yourself This Holiday Season

The holiday season isn’t all twinkling lights and cheerful gatherings. Many people feel lots of stress and anxiety around the holidays due to changes in routines, social pressures and a growing to-do list.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, self-care becomes even more important. 

If this time of year seems tough, you’re not alone. Alyssa Bowman, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Banner Health, shared simple tips to help you re-center and be the best version of yourself during the holidays.

Why the holidays aren’t always holly and jolly

The holiday season is said to be “the most wonderful time of the year” and the “season of giving,” but it may also feel like the season of take, take, take.

“For many, the holiday season brings its own unique set of stressors,” Bowman said. “There are social pressures to create a picture-perfect holiday. You may be spending time with people you usually try to avoid. You may feel financial pressures to buy gifts.”

In addition, the focus on family and friends during the holidays can also highlight grief if someone you cared for has died.

Why physical and mental self-care matters during the holidays

When a lot is going on in your life, putting others before yourself is natural. But, as the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

“Holiday stress drains our personal batteries,” said Bowman. “Self-care acts as the recharge that helps you focus on what truly matters, allowing you to make mindful choices for your mental and physical health.”

Taking care of yourself during the holidays ensures you can remain present with the people you care about. This is the greatest gift you can give.

Five holiday self-care tips

Here are five healthy holiday habits to help you stress less and savor the season:

1. Embrace Hygge

Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is the Danish concept of coziness and well-being. It is a great way to prioritize self-care.   

“Hygge is all about creating a warm, comfortable space and enjoying the simple things in life,” Bowman said. “It’s a wonderful way to be intentional about self-care and manage stress.”

You can infuse hygge into your holiday routine by:

  • Creating a cozy space with blankets, pillows and soft lighting. It could be your reading nook or a quiet space to journal.
  • Enjoying comfort foods like hot cocoa, a bowl of soup or a nourishing meal.
  • Finding a comforting activity. Maybe it’s lighting a candle and taking a bath, meditating or taking a nap.
  • Walking outside in nature.
  • Carving out quality time with people you care about over a special meal, taking a walk or hanging out together at home.
2. Practice saying “No”

Building healthy boundaries is one of the most difficult parts of any relationship, especially your family. It’s good to lend a helping hand, but be realistic about what you can and want to do.

“Being able to say ‘no’ to activities and gatherings that run your battery low and ‘yes’ to activities that bring you joy is a wonderful practice to engage in,” Bowman said. “Politely let your family and friends know when you need a break and time for yourself.”

3. Build in “me time” every day

When you are busy, self-care is even more important. Open up your calendar and block out time in your day for downtime. Set aside five, 10 or 30 minutes once or twice a day.

You can take a walk, read a good book, take a warm bath, meditate or simply take time to breathe. Apps like Headspace or Insight Timer encourage you to take time for yourself.

“Breathing sends the brain the message that it is time to calm down,” Bowman said. “Within a few seconds, your body will begin to relax and your heart rate will slow.”

4. Focus on your physical health

Many things seem to go out the window during the holidays: your diet, exercise and sleep, to name just a few. However, these three things are so important to your physical health and are natural ways you can boost your energy and mood.

Make sure to:

  • Get a full night’s rest: Go to bed at the same time every night.
  • Eat a balanced diet: Balance holiday treats with healthy, nourishing meals and snacks.
  • Limit alcoholic drinks: There can be social pressure to indulge in some holiday cheer. Follow the one-to-one rule. For every drink or cocktail you have, follow it with a glass of water. Your head will thank you in the morning.
  • Be active: Fit in daily physical activity, whether going for a walk or jog, hitting the gym or a home workout.
5. Ditch the perfection trap

Not everyone can be like the Joneses (or the Griswolds) — nor should they. If you are chasing a perfect holiday, it will only make you crazy. Let go of perfection and be okay with “good enough.”

“It’s fairly impossible to meet the social expectations that exist in our culture, and it’s not the healthy way to live,” said Bowman. “Lowering your holiday season expectations is healthy and a great example of self-care.”

One step you can take to help with the comparison game is to limit your time on social media. Do yourself a favor and give yourself a break from social media as often as possible.

What to do if you’re struggling

Know that you aren’t alone. For so many people, the holiday season is challenging. If you feel stressed and overwhelmed, pick one self-care activity you can focus on that day.

“If you need additional help, speak with a behavioral health specialist or call 988 to connect with a local crisis center,” Bowman said.


The holiday season can sometimes feel more like a marathon than a sleigh ride. Set aside time for yourself amid the glittering lights, delicious food and gatherings. By taking time for self-care, you can enjoy the holiday season and feel your best.

Remember that support is always available. Call your health care provider or a Banner Health specialist. You can also call the Banner Behavioral Health Appointment Line 24 hours a day at (800) 254-4357.

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