Self-Care for the Holidays

You can feel the intensity starting about a week before Thanksgiving. People are beginning to make lists, worry about family gifts, think about how much money to spend, and stress over getting through all of their holiday responsibilities.


It doesn’t matter if you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, or Kwanza, the pressure is on! Once we make it through the non-denominational Thanksgiving dinner, it is almost as if the anxiety about the holidays becomes more prominent than the holiday itself. Whether we blame it on advertising, the pressure to spend money or entertain, or some internal need to measure up, everyone seems overwhelmed.

In the last few weeks I have read no less than ten articles on self-care and stress management for the holidays. Some were more spiritual, some more logical and concrete, but none of them hit the mark for me. I began to think about what I would recommend so that the holidays can be really enjoyed and not endured. How can we ignore all of the pressure to buy more, cook more, entertain more, and spend more?

– Pare down. Remember that this is supposed to be a holiday. Look at your list (because, of course, you have one), and eliminate anything that is not really essential. Do you really need 10 gifts for each child? Must you have all of those appetizers for the friends and family party? Do you really have to give up going to the gym in order to have every bit of food be homemade?

– Amp up family time. Actually, schedule time to be with your family so that the holiday pressures do not sweep away the really important thing…love for those who are important to you. Whether your family is a biological one or a family of choice, those are the people who deserve your time and attention.

– Be selective. You do not have to attend every party or send out 1,000. The holidays are not a time to act like a Facebook friend where quantity is better than quality. If you cannot really put a short note in that card, why are you sending it? If you cannot spend time at that party saying more than “Hi, how are you?” what are you doing there?

– Take time for yourself. Whether you like to journal, read a good book, listen to music, or exercise, don’t ignore yourself. If you have to put time for you on a calendar, do it!

– Think about what is important to you. Many people talk about paying it forward, or giving back, but have no time to do it. If you really want to serve dinner at a local soup kitchen, don’t worry about what your family will think. If you want to relieve hospital workers whose holiday it is, go ahead and volunteer. Research tells us that people who give more feel better than those who get more.

– Pay attention to those around you who have suffered a loss or who have no family nearby. We always have room for one more at the table and there has never been a case I’ve heard of where someone ran out of food. Don’t forget those whose support systems may not be as rich as yours.

– Take a deep breath. You don’t have to meditate for an hour; Just remember that when you feel your anxiety meter rising, stop and take a few deep breaths. Make it a point to think about what is important right now, in this moment. Pay attention to the beauty around you and focus on the things you can be grateful for.

Having said all of this, I wish you all a wonderful holiday and a happy, healthy New Year. I am going to follow my own advice, and sit down in front of the fireplace with a good book!

Dr. Alison Block,, 732-933-1333