December 5, 2022

New (plus some tried-and-true) ideas for self-care this season

As a committed student of self-care, I write a lot about it on this blog. And I talk a lot about it with leaders in my coaching practice. But it’s not just because I love walks in the woods, warming cups of a cozy drink and journaling — some of my holiday season self-care strategies. It’s because the difficult work of leadership is exponentially more challenging for people who are exhausted, emotionally depleted and chronically overwhelmed.

Like the oft-cited reminder to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others, you must build your own resilience and self-leadership before you can support and lead others. That’s where self-care comes in.

This year, as I was pondering my typical early-December post on self-care, I revisited the lists I’d made in the past. And I decided to reshare one of the best for this season of giving (and, let’s be honest, often a season of GO-ing). I’ve made a few additions, and I welcome further recommendations from you in the comments.

Self-care for the holiday season

Time, energy and emotional resilience are often in short supply at this time of year.  Here are some of my favorite ideas for preserving yours, but I’d love to hear other ideas, too. How do you manage self-care for the holiday season?

Limit the junk in your electronic diet

News, social media sites and apps have long been a place that can alternately nourish and drain us, but in recent years, these outlets have tilted toward the draining side. As you consume information, pay attention to what saps your energy, and consider taking a break from something that does so during this season. Not only can you step back from a self-reinforcing cycle that is designed to draw you in, keep you there and sell you things. You may also find that you can open your mind to different ways of seeing the world when you step outside the echo chambers of online media.

Add something good to your electronic diet

Of course, not all tech, media and information outlets are harmful. Plenty of organizations are doing wonderful research and reporting, and I would never advocate burying your head in the sand amid important news. You can instead consider balancing the often-tough news of the real world with a more positive and generative site like You could also try an app like Calm to replace endless scrolling with something infinitely more satisfying.

Find (or build) a community

This is something I have thought a lot about in the past year or so. As a family physician, I have long appreciated the value of community and connection for health and well-being. That’s part of why I recently vowed that community-building would be a central pillar of the next phase of my professional life. Most people won’t wish to go that far, nor do they need to in order to reap the benefits. But we can all contribute to community in our own ways. And I promise if you do so, you will find yourself happier, healthier, and more grounded in purpose.

Pace yourself

Cramming all your cooking, buying, planning and everything else into one or two days is a recipe for burnout. This time is supposed to be restorative, and this is a season, not just a day. Plan so you can maintain your time and energy over the season — including a recovery period when it’s over.

Make a list of what you have to do, and then prune it

This is not a bad idea for any time of life, but especially those times that tend to overwhelm us. Go ahead and pour everything from your head onto a to-do list, but then break out the garden shears. Take at least one thing off your list for each week of the season, and let it go. Focus on the things that yield the greatest benefit in the relationships that matter to you, or the greatest amount of joy. If it doesn’t serve one of those aims, try to let it go or put it on hold. (If this is making you think of Marie Kondo and “Tidying up,” you need to see this post and this one on bringing her approach to your mindset.)

Budget your money, not just your time

It’s easy to overspend at this time and then spin into a spiral of stress and anxiety (and perhaps more spending). Take charge now by planning what you will spend and sticking to it. This has the added benefit of reining in impulse spending. The stress of spending more than you feel good about will just sap your energy.

Put projects on hold

It’s a tough time to start anything new, so if at all possible, don’t take on any new project assignments right now. This may mean deferring decisions until after the first of the year, or you may need to say “no” outright (here are some ideas to help you learn how). You won’t always be able to decline, but give yourself permission to filter requests for your time until after the first of next year, if at all possible.

Reach out

Do you have a child or older person in your life to celebrate with? This is a nice way of forging connections and fostering the magic of generativity – something that will fuel your energy, even if it takes some of your time.

Soak up the season

Spend time on something creative like music, art, food or whatever in this season brings you joy. This can take up time, but if it feeds your soul, it will feed your energy, too, and your ability to contribute to the things that matter to you. So, give yourself permission to make time for these pursuits. They matter.

Give a gift to yourself of time for you

The holiday season seems to stretch longer each year. At least once each month, you give yourself something: A day off, a book you have really been wanting and the time to read it, a massage, lunch with a friend or family member, or something else that really matters to you. More is better. This is about self-care and reminding yourself that you and your needs matter.

Get outside and move

Getting outside and getting active is great for improving mood, energy and sleep. In addition, you’re likely to run across somebody else and build or reinforce your sense of connectedness. It helps to get out of the house and out of our own heads, and even better if we can do something good for our bodies at the same time.

Learn about one new holiday

Most of us are well aware we don’t all celebrate this time (or any time) in the same way. Why not take awareness to the next level and broaden your sense of this season by learning about what matters to someone else. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “man’s mind, stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimension.”

A season for you

It’s hard to soak up the experiences that matter most to you when you are depleted. That’s where self-care for the holiday season comes into play. And with the new year (and new-year goal setting) nearly upon us, it’s not a bad time to build a healthy habit that will sustain you for many seasons to come!

Unlock your potential and align with what matters most to you. 

It’s that simple.

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