Last updated 19 December, 2022

7 Ways to look after yourself over the holidays

The holidays are finally here. But after a long year, and with the extra demands of the  festive season, you may experience fatigue, increased stress, anxiety, low mood, even burnout. This year, why not give yourself the gift of self-care? Prioritising your wellbeing will help you recharge effectively, regain your mojo, and get ready to kick goals in the new year.

Here’s how to look after your wellbeing during the holiday season:

1. Take a break

It’s time to disconnect from work and non-essential responsibilities. You’ve given it your all during the year, and you deserve a break. While you may not be able to stop working, running your home or looking after your kids, it’s important to allow yourself some downtime to unwind and de-stress – without feeling guilty!

  • Don’t forget to set up an automated ‘I’m on holiday’ email reply. 

  • If you must check your inbox, allow yourself a few minutes to do so early in the day, then stop. 

  • If you do need to work over the holidays, stick to set hours; and turn your phone off when you’re not working.

  • Set aside time each day to do a restful activity, whether that’s enjoying a cuppa in the sunshine, listening to your favourite tracks, crafting or meditating.

  • Unplug from social media. Switch off all notifications, stop looking at accounts that leave you feeling frustrated or less worthy, and swap scrolling for reading hard-copy books or magazines.

2. Review & reflect

Reflecting on the year that’s been is an important self-assessment tool. It enables you to become more self-aware, and helps you direct your focus for the new year and towards realistic goal setting. 

Areas for introspective questioning include your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing; your career; your relationships; and personal growth and development. As your reflect on each area, consider the following:

  • Think of the highs and lows of the year.

  • Acknowledge what you went through, and what you’ve achieved..

  • Consider the lessons you’ve learnt,

  • Identify the skills you’ve gained, and any areas that need work.

  • Celebrate your accomplishments. 

Spending time on reflection allows you to pause amid the chaos of the season, restoring inner calm. It also boosts your confidence; and helps you create meaning, which makes you happier and more resilient.

3. Get enough sleep

While it’s tempting to sacrifice sleep to fit in more festivities or holiday projects, getting enough shut-eye is vital for your wellbeing. 

A lack of sleep can affect your mood and behaviour – it may trigger emotional outbursts, increase anger, and dial up irritability and frustration. 

Poor sleep also makes you more accident prone; and makes it much more difficult to cope with stress and anxiety. 

  • While it may be harder to maintain a regular sleep routine, aim to get at least seven hours of sleep every night – even if that means getting up later on a few occasions.

  • Practise a pre-bed ritual to help you wind down after a night out.

  • Watch what you eat at night. Spicy and fatty foods, as well as chocolate (and drinking coffee or black tea), will keep you awake.

  • Know your drinking limit. If you do drink, allow at least three hours between your last drink and bedtime. 

  • Moderate-to-intense exercise will improve your sleep quality, so keep moving! 

4. Strive for balance

With all the social gatherings and celebrations, there’s usually plenty of alcohol and rich foods on offer. Unfortunately, too many mince pies and boozy nights out are bad for your health. In fact, studies reveal the Christmas holidays are linked to higher rates of heart attacks – with possible explanations including changes in diet and alcohol consumption. 

Besides, eating too much can leave you feeling drowsy or lethargic, exacerbating fatigue; and, over a few weeks, it can lead to unwanted weight gain – which may harm your health. 

Excessive drinking can disrupt your sleep and increase negative feelings, including anger, anxiety or depression. It can also leave you with a hangover, which will seriously diminish your energy (and dampen your enthusiasm) the next day.

Striking the right balance between having fun and staying healthy is key!

  • Always eat something before you leave home – you’ll be less likely to overeat.

  • Follow the 3:1 rule when it comes to loading your plate with festive fare (yes, that means three parts healthy options and one part indulgent choice!). 

  • In-between events, stick to your normal healthy diet.

  • Partying from dusk till dawn? Keep the H₂O flowing to stay hydrated and help prevent a hangover.

  • Drink slowly; savour quality over quantity, focus on the opportunity to relax, and enjoy the company you keep. 

5. Check in with yourself

The holiday season can be hectic. Because you’re so busy, you may forget to check in on your mental wellbeing. 

From time to time, make a point of asking yourself how you’re feeling. Are negative emotions getting the better of you? Do you feel a little more anxious than usual? Are you showing signs of stress? 

Writing your answers down will help you keep track of how you’re coping. If there are any red flags, speak to someone you trust as soon as possible.

It’s important to know your triggers, and put strategies in place to help you navigate these obstacles. For example, large family gatherings, worries around overspending, or loneliness can worsen symptoms of poor mental health.

  • Set a budget for the holidays, and stick to it. 

  • To curb spending, seek out free activities – there are plenty! – to enjoy with friends or family.

  • Don’t overcommit; be realistic about your capacity to socialise, and practise saying no.

  • If you can’t get out of a gathering, retreat to a private space as soon as you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed. Take deep breaths, listen to calming music, even meditate for 10 minutes before you rejoin the party.

  • If you’re hosting, remind yourself that the holidays are about joy, and spending time with friends and loved ones, not perfection.

  • If you’re feeling isolated or lonely, connect with your community. Volunteer work will give you an opportunity for social interaction, boost your self-confidence, and bring a sense of fulfilment.

6. Stay active

Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you should throw good habits out the window. In fact, keeping active during this time will bring a host of wellbeing benefits.

Exercise is a great stress reliever; and it can help lift your mood and your energy levels. It’s also the best way to prevent weight gain over the party season.

But sticking to healthy habits can be hard during the holidays, especially if you’re travelling, or have family who need a lot of your time. Typically, when one habit falls by the wayside, it’s easy to give up on other healthy habits – for example, if you stop exercising, you may ditch the healthy diet too because you’re “on holiday” or because “there’s no point now”. 

  • Exercise in the morning, before the day gets away from you.

  • Make exercise convenient. Keep your bathers in the car – they may come in handy during a day out. And wear your running shoes; you may be able to sneak in a quick walk after lunch when others are napping, or a quick run before dinner.

  • If you can’t get to the gym or take part in your usual physical activities, now is a good time to mix it up and try something new. Why not exercise at home instead?

  • Up your incidental exercise: offer to take the dog for a walk every morning; play tag or backyard cricket with the kids; take the stairs wherever you go.

7. Practise gratitude

Setting aside time to be grateful is good for you. Numerous studies have shown that practising gratitude helps you cultivate a positive mindset, develops mental resilience, restores calm, lowers stress, and makes you happier. 

One of the easiest ways to build gratitude into your day is to keep a journal. The simple act of putting pen to paper and reflecting on your written words helps you focus on the good things in your life, rather than the negatives, and helps you reconnect with your inner self.

Working gratitude into your life this season is simple:

  • At the start or end of each day, write down three things you’re thankful for.

  • At your next family gathering, go around the table and ask to hear one special thing about the holidays (or the occasion) from each person .

  • Write thank you notes to friends for gifts and for hosting parties.

  • Give to those who are less fortunate – donate food or clothing, or volunteer your time.

  • Appreciate nature – take a ‘gratitude walk’ around your neighbourhood, at the beach, in a forest, or even on the golf course! 

For more insight on how to take care of you, listen to our podcast ‘When Self-Care Isn’t Fulfilling’ here.  

If you’re struggling to look after your mental, emotional or physical wellbeing, or if you’re showing signs of chronic stress, anxiety or burnout,  book a session now to connect with one of our expert coaches.

Gain a real advantage.

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Breathe in. Breathe out. Charge up your wellbeing!