self care for the holidays

_MG_3244Do you feel that holidays are all about the other: finding the perfect gift for a loved one; carving out time to meet friends; spending time with close and extended family?  While all these activities can be rewarding, they can also be times of stress. Did Aunt Joan like that perfume? Will Uncle Ted bring up *that* subject again? Will my friends or co-workers think badly of me if I leave the party early? And why oh why does no store stock x, y or z?

Finding time for self care can be challenging at the best of times – especially for all of us parents, professionals and general go-getters. At this time of year it can be even more of a struggle to fit in time for ourselves: and yet it is so important that we do!

Good sleep, full breaths and healthy nutrition are the foundations for self care. Here are 7 quick ways we can take care of ourselves to help us enjoy the season of good will towards our fellow beings.

  • take 20 minutes for exercise each day: whether that be a brisk dog walk, parking the car as far as you can from the store or a session of yoga or workout in person or from one of many apps available. Daily exercise will release endorphins and well, we know one Christmas cookie is never enough!
  • take 5 minutes to practise deep breathing. Sit in an upright and comfortable position, and with focus breathe in for a slow count of 5, hold for a moment, then breathe out again slowly for a count of 5. Aim to breathe into your belly, if it helps place a hand lightly below your tummy button and watch it rise and fall as you breathe. As your breathing slows and deepens increase your count to 7 or 8.
  • take 4 minutes to smile each day! Looking into a mirror at first can help. Soften the muscles of your face, especially around your eyes and let your jaw become loose. Looking into your eyes, allow yourself to remember a loving memory (this could be of anything at all), and smile. As you smile notice the change in your face, especially the look in your eyes. Chances are your smile will grow larger naturally, you may even laugh. Keep smiling and gazing – if any negative thoughts or concerns intrude, you can politely tell them that you’ll deal with them later. It’s amazing what an impact smiling at yourself can have on your day!
  • give yourself a 10 minute hand massage. If you travel as a passenger, or if stuck in traffic, this is an ideal way to take time for some self care! Start by rubbing your hands together and then with your dominant hand squeeze and release all parts of your other hand. Notice any discomfort or tension in either hand. Work up each finger as though you were trying to remove a tight ring, giving a little tug at the end to each finger tip. Don’t forget the thumb! Using your fingers to support your  hand from behind, massage all over your palm with your thumb. And then with your fingers supporting your palm, use your thimb to make small cicular motions in the area between your thumb and forefinger, then working down from between the fingers to your wrist, following the area between the bones. Use the pressure that feels best. Finally rub all over your hand again, smoothing and stimulating the blood flow – this is a great time to apply any hand cream or lotion. Now repeat on your other hand.
  • dance! Give yourslf permission to boogie to your favourite songs each day. Make a playlist to dance or sing to, and have fun with it!
  • enjoy a cup of tea. Invest in a teacup or a teapot you really love, make sure it’s practical so you’ll use it every day. Take time each morning or evening to make your tea. There are many wonderful herbs which will help you relax: chamomile, passionfruit, hops, valerian, vervain, mint, rosemary, skullcap. But choose something you like! If a herb is fantastic for you, but you don’t love the taste of it, pass it over for something that you’ll want to reach for again and again. Enjoy the feel, warmth, aroma and effect of your tea as you sip. If you can, really make a ritual of your tea time.
  • eat a square of chocolate. Dark chocolate (over 75% cacao) has wonderful properties to support self care. Rich in magnesium, antioxidants and healthy fats and packed with seratonin and dopamine, it’s a delicious way to pamper yourself. Enjoying a  ½ ounce or 15 grams each day and allowing yourself to take the time to savour it is best. Find quiet, sit comfortably and take little bites, letting it slowly melt on your tongue, moving it around to appreciate all the flavors and texture. When it’s all gone, sit for a moment more to see what a difference it’s made to your mood and energy level.

No matter which way you find to give yourself self care, find the time for it! Your family, friends and most importantly  ~ you ~ will feel the benefit!

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