Self-care doesn’t always mean going to yoga retreats or enjoying a spa day. Sometimes it’s setting appropriate boundaries and listening to our bodies. Caring for ourselves is particularly important during the holiday season — a time when we need it the most.

Increased demands on our time — office parties, family get-togethers, and other festive commitments — often leave us feeling stressed out and exhausted by New Year, and in need of a vacation! Even more so if you’re an introvert, as you simply aren’t used to that much socializing.

A stressful Christmas can lead to unhealthy coping strategies, like drinking more than you’d planned, emotional eating (and the relentless shame we feel around that), and spending a week in your PJs watching Netflix. Checking out or escaping, while momentarily providing relief, often lead to negative self-talk and low self-esteem — the last thing you need when your body wants to relax and unwind.

What would it look like to instead do something different? How about putting our needs first this Christmas so that we enter January feeling rested, strong, and ready to face 2019?

This can seem like a foreign concept, “What about my family’s needs?” you might think. Here’s the thing: you know that you can’t care for your family as well as you’d like if you don’t care for yourself first. Tending to your needs last often leads to burnout, lowered immunity, feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, and reaching for cold and flu remedies.

Here are our top suggestions to put yourself first this Christmas…


  1. Learn how to say no. If you didn’t know this already, “No” is a complete sentence, requiring no further explanation. We have the right to do what feels good to us. Before saying yes, and adding to your increasing list of demands, first consider:
    • Is this something you want to do?
    • Will it add value to your Christmas?
    • Does it conflict with another commitment?
    • Are you saying yes to please others?
    • Does it feel right?
  2. Let go of weight loss goals. Adding the pressure of shrinking yourself during a time of abundance is a recipe for disaster. If you want to eat that slice of pie, we say eat the slice of pie, enjoy it, and don’t shame yourself for eating it.
  3. Schedule time for yourself. It’s crucial that you make time to slow down and chill out. Block out time in your calendar and make yourself a priority, no questions asked.
  4. Have an escape plan. If you have to go to the party, or family gathering, be sure to have a plan of when you’ll leave — tell others in advance that you can’t stay for long, and ensure you either park your car nearby, or use Lyft/Uber.
  5. Know that it is okay to change your mind. Even if you have confirmed you’ll be attending a party, it is absolutely okay not to go if you don’t feel up to it. Sure, people might be disappointed, but your needs must come first.
  6. Listen to body cues. This might sound simple, but how often do we ignore when our body is tired? By resting when needed ensures we don’t end up burned out, irritable, and sick.
  7. Enjoy yourself. Do things that you find enjoyable and plan them into your calendar.
  8. Make a list of stress-busting tools. If you know there are certain things that are triggering — like an overbearing family member, or annoying boss — have a list of things that you can turn to, like: yoga, a gym class, therapy, meditation, listening to relaxing music, reading a book, journaling, taking a bath, soaking or floating, or having tea with a close friend.
  9. Have a day off. Seriously.
  10. Let go of unhealthy relationships. We have all had those relationships — the ones that only bring drama, or you find yourself feeling drained afterwards. Stop putting your energy into them. Your mind and body will thank you for it.
Olivia Pennelle

Located in Portland, OR, Olivia Pennelle (Liv) is an experienced writer, journalist, and coach. She is the founder of the popular site Liv’s Recovery Kitchen, a site dedicated to helping people flourish in their recovery. Liv is passionate about challenging limiting mentalities and empowering others to direct their own lives, health, and recovery. You can find her articles across the web on podcasts and publications across the web, including Ravishly, The Fix,, Workit Health, and STAT News. Liv was recently featured in VICE.

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