Happy Holidays to You: 5 Gifts to Give Yourself this Holiday Deason

It is the season of giving, but with work and family responsibilities, shopping, wrapping, baking, cleaning, decorating …Stop! Holiday stress will sap all the joy out of the season leaving you frazzled. Stress can make you physically ill as surges of hormones strain your immune system. You cannot spread good cheer if you’re exhausted and fighting a losing battle against seasonal viruses. Make your first gift of the holiday season one of love to yourself. This is not being selfish — the brighter you glow, the more light you’ll spread to others. Here are a few suggestions for self-care this holiday season.

Release those feel-good hormones

The American Psychological Association calls it “the exercise effect.” Moving your muscles, whether it’s with a brisk walk around the neighborhood, dancing up a storm in the kitchen while preparing dinner or jumping around in front of a work-out video, will lift your mood. Studies have shown that regular exercise increases your resilience, making you better able to handle stressful situations. Additionally, exercise boosts serotonin levels, a natural antidepressant.

Find a physical activity you enjoy and give yourself 30 minutes a day to sweat out your stress and anxiety.  Schedule your workout time as if it were a doctor’s appointment. While you may believe you don’t have time in your schedule, recognize that the half hour you devote to exercise will be recaptured as increased energy will enable you to tackle other tasks with greater efficiency. 

Disconnect to reconnect

How many hours of screen time do you put in a day? Computers, televisions, cell phones and tablets keep us informed and connected, but the continual stimulation taxes our minds. Our brains have become trained to expect distractions — pop-up ads, message notifications, phone calls, commercials cutting into television programs.  Jumping from one distraction to the next is draining and keeps us skittering across the surface of life, unable to focus deeply and really engage in daily tasks. Give yourself the gift of a quiet mind by designating a set period of time, or one whole day a week, as your “screen-free” time. Power down the electronics, schedule some face-to-face time with family and friends or curl up with juicy novel to rejuvenate your mind’s ability to think without a glowing screen.

Allow an extravagance

You don’t need to book a luxury cruise to feel pampered. Each day offers the opportunity for a little extravagance that can work with any budget and schedule. Drink your morning orange juice out of an elegant goblet, light a scented candle, pick up a bunch of fresh flowers for the dining room table, splurge on a few pieces of gourmet chocolate. Too often, the holiday season has us running from one commitment to another, leaving us little time to consider our own comfort. Weave a little bit of luxury into your day to revitalize your body and soothe your soul.

Take time to pursue a hobby

Creativity reduces stress, stimulates the mind and boosts self-confidence. Give yourself time, maybe an hour each week, to pursue an old hobby or pick up a new one. What do you really enjoy doing? Time spent with a box of paints, a set of knitting needles or attending a dance class will get the creativity flowing, feeding your body and soul, keeping you at the top of your game.

Travel to some place new

Our daily routines have us travel the same routes day in and day out — from home to work and back. We drive to the same grocery stores and shopping malls. We drop our kids off at school and pick them back up, trips we know so well we seem to make them on autopilot, never noticing the interesting or beautiful things we may pass.

Exploring new places adds to our lives by adding fresh perspectives and clarity. You don’t need to book a flight to experience something new. Perhaps a nearby town has a quaint shopping village you could explore. Many communities have historical homes decorated for the holidays. This would make for a festive afternoon. Pretend you are a tourist and seek out nearby attractions for a mini-vacation in the midst of your everyday life.

No time? There are infinite moments in 24 hours

You may believe that you just don’t have time during the holidays to give yourself these gifts, but time, and the speed at which is passes, is a perception. Remember how, as a child, a year seemed to be forever, yet as an adult, the seasons seem to whip by?

For kids, so much of the world is still new, and they notice details that our adult minds pass over. Neuroscientist David Eagleman explains that our perception of time passing slows when our brains are recording details. Fully attending to what is in our present allows us to do so much more in a half-hour than we could ever hope to accomplish rushing around multi-tasking.  This holiday season, task a deep breath, have a piece of chocolate and crank up the dance music.