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5 tips to help you practice self-care over the holidays

Friday, Dec. 18, 2020
 
woman enjoying the present moment eating in front of a computer

The 2020 holiday season is here, and even though some holiday celebrations may have moved online, there is still a lot of planning that has to take place! It’s easy to lose track of the things that we do throughout the rest of the year that keep us healthy and happy. Here are some tips to make sure that you take care of yourself this holiday season:

1. Keep up the exercise – Often times during the holidays, people will skip their workout. This results in losing a very potent stress reliever. Rather than skipping workouts all together, I would encourage people to simply scale back if they find that they don’t feel like doing their regular workout routine.

Engaging in physical activity is something I recommend to every client I work with because it helps reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, overall stress levels, and improves things like mood, concentration, and even sleep.

Research has shown that regular exercise (lasting at least 10 minutes per day) triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain (the same hormones that are targeted by anti-depressant medications), which can buffer against stress, anxiety, and depression.

2. Guard your sleep – Few things interfere with physical and mental health as much as disrupted sleep. It can lead to irritability, additional stress, and even weight gain. During the holidays, people often disrupt their sleep schedule to stay up later. Here are three things that you can do to make sure your sleep is protected and as restful as possible:

  • Cut back on the caffeine and sugar for at least four hours before bed. These are stimulants that can keep you awake.
     
  • Skip the naps, especially the ones after large meals, so that you’re more tired at bedtime.
     
  • Pass on the goodies and leftovers in the fridge for at least three hours before bed so that you’re not kept awake by heartburn, indigestion, or sugar headaches.

3. Practice gratitude – Gratitude is another thing that can protect our brains from stress and depression. Research has demonstrated that even pondering the question, “what am I grateful for?” can increase levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, even when you can’t think of an answer.

Practicing gratitude can be as simple as reviewing what you are grateful for each day. This can be done mentally, or through the use of a simple gratitude journal where you write down the things that you are grateful for.

4. Make space for difficult feelings – The holidays can often be difficult times for many people, especially this year with the COVID-19 pandemic. If you notice yourself repeating unhelpful habits, try to take a step back to make sense of what’s going on. The more you try to make sense of and confront your emotions, the less scary they become. This makes it easier to sit with those difficult emotions.

5. Enjoy the present moment – One thing that really interferes with enjoyment of the holidays is being so wrapped up in the planning and execution of the perfect holiday experience that you lose touch with the present.

Remember to take it easy and allow yourself the space to open up and enjoy each moment as it happens. Don’t forget to share some smiles and laughs over that zoom call with family or friends, and savor every bite of that holiday meal.

If you are experiencing anxiety and are having a difficult time, we have occupational therapists, psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors and social workers that can help.

Please check our locations page to find a clinic near you or book online to schedule an appointment.

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