Holiday Season Self-Care Checklist
Published on December 19, 2017
by Dr. Caitlin Gordon

Holiday Season Self-Care Checklist

Published on December 19, 2017 by Dr. Caitlin Gordon

Holiday Season Self-Care Checklist

Every year I aspire to have any holiday gift making or shopping done by December 1st, to remain sugar-free, and to spend the month doing introverted enjoyable things like journaling, taking baths, yoga, drinking tea and oooh-ahhing at the twinkly lights. Surprise, not the case! However, I have managed to make steady progress towards this goal of a chilled-out December using the advice below.

a packed gift with decorations

The holidays often bring heightened stress for a number of reasons. This time of year can trigger grief over lost or estranged loved ones. Time spent with family can bring up old wounds and triggers from generations of dysfunctional family dynamics. There is a lot of pressure to participate in every holiday party and gathering as well as to spend money and thought on gifts. We ruminate on what we did or did not accomplish this year. This is financially and emotionally taxing!

The natural rhythm of our bodies in the winter time (for those in the northern hemisphere) is to go slower and spend less time socializing. When we ignore this natural inclination and stay very busy, on top of the alcohol, sugar, and stress that often comes along with it, we suppress our immune system. It’s no surprise that this time of year is cold and flu season.

Your immune system will work just as well as it does in the summertime (no flu shot needed) and you can relax and enjoy this time of year if you follow the holiday season self-care checklist below.

  • Make extra time for touch. Touch stimulates our brain’s production of oxytocin which is a chemical essential to feelings of connection. Oxytocin helps us feel relaxed, loving, grateful, and compassionate*. Sources for touch can be massage, acupuncture, partner dancing, and cuddling significant others, kids, or pets.

    *All of my patients report feeling more tolerant, loving, and connected to their partners after an acupuncture session. If your relationship is struggling, acupuncture can help.
  • Practice radical self-acceptance and let it be okay that you feel triggered by family members, ex’s, coworkers, etc. Thinking you shouldn’t care or should have moved on only reinforces negative feelings.
  • Practice compassion and try to release the need to change your family. Wishing things were different is normal (radical self-acceptance), but resisting the reality of what is only makes you more miserable. Pick a couple things about a challenging person that you can appreciate and let that help you find common ground. Everyone is suffering and struggling with something.
  • Let go of the need to give gifts. People are going to love and accept you even if you don’t get them expensive or even thoughtful gifts. One of the most thoughtful things you can do is write people cards letting them know what you appreciate about them. This is better than anything you could buy and it’s free.

    If you are gift-giving, consider giving experiences or consumables to reduce your environmental impact and strengthen relationships through shared quality time.
  • Embrace your inner introvert. Say no to holiday parties or get-togethers that feel overwhelming–this doesn’t make you a Scrooge and you aren’t missing out on anything but a sugar/alcohol hangover.
  • Continue to exercise, especially outside. Exercise will help keep your endorphins flowing, releasing stress and strengthening your immune system.
  • Get some sunshine or take Vitamin D. Low levels of sunlight and Vitamin D are correlated with decreased immune function leaving you more vulnerable to colds and flu. Low sunlight and Vitamin D are also linked to low mood. Keep your spirits high with sunshine or a supplement. Lightboxes are a fantastic way to stay physically and emotionally healthy in the winter if you live in a grey climate.
  • Limit your intake of sugar and alcohol. Choose nonsugary-beverages like clear liquors and soda water with lemon or lime or dry wines. Both sugar and alcohol are dehydrating, deplete minerals and vitamins (B-vits in particular) and make you more susceptible to getting sick and feeling depressed or anxious.
  • Practice good hand-washing. Wash hands with regular old soap (skip the anti-bacterial stuff that has toxic triclosan in it). It’s the friction of rubbing your hands together that sloughs off germs. Wash hands when you leave public places, before and after parties, and beware of finger foods (hand-shaking and finger foods are a bad mix).
  • Make time for adequate sleep– if you’re in a climate that has shorter colder days you need a minimum of 8 hours. Your body will naturally want more sleep than usual at this time of year. Honor it.
  • Count your blessings. This time of year can be very materially focused. Don’t get sucked into the lie that your worth is tied to your wealth or that gift giving or receiving means something about you. Our true abundance lies in our health, our relationships, and our ability to love and be of service to others.

If you enjoyed this holiday season self-care checklist, share it with someone who could use it!

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