Not to alarm you, but I feel I must point out that the holidays are quickly approaching. I know, I too was shocked when I realized this. I feel like I finally just took down my bunting from the 4th of July, and now suddenly it’s almost Thanksgiving. Yikes.

I don’t know about you, but as much as I love the holiday season, it really stresses me out. Planning, parties, family time, gifts, cooking…it’s so much pressure. My anxiety is so heightened during this time of the year. Couple that with the dwindling daylight hours and perceived perpetual darkness that triggers my Season Affective Disorder and I sometimes feel so overwhelmed that I feel like I can’t go on.

You too? Well, don’t fret. I’ve got some self-care tips to help guide you through a stress-free (or at least, a less stressful) holiday season.

Allow Yourself to Take Breaks

Sometimes, during holiday parties, I can get very overwhelmed by the constant chatter and crush of people around me. I’ve learned over time that the best thing for me to do when I start to feel that rising panic or dissociation is to step away for a minute. Go outside, go to the bathroom, or, if it’s at your own home, find your quiet, safe space. Take a breath, drink some water, and take a moment to collect yourself. If you are worried that people will notice your absence, let me assure you that they probably won’t. That’s not a dig at you—it’s more of a reminder that people are far more wrapped up in their own experience that you think they are.

Unburden Yourself of Responsibility

Yes, we all have responsibilities, and if you are hosting a party, you obviously need to provide a certain amount of food/drinks for people. But it’s important to note that you cannot hold yourself responsible for others’ enjoyment during the holiday season. I struggle with this a lot—I will host an event and spend the entire time so focused on whether my guests are having a good time that I completely miss out on the event myself. Remember that, chances are, those you are hosting are all competent adults who not only can take care of themselves, but also most likely know and love you. Plus, it doesn’t have to be the perfect party, because your guests are probably just glad they aren’t the ones who have to host.

Treat Yourself

The holidays are about giving, giving, giving—but how about giving to yourself? During these times, we tend to neglect ourselves for the benefit of others, but you can’t pour from an empty cup. Treating yourself doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the mall for some new threads, although if that’s your jam, by all means, go for it. It could be something as simple as taking an Epsom salt bath, or taking a walk, or sitting down and reading a book. It could be listening to your favorite music or applying scented lotion. Find things that are relaxing or restorative to your unique mind. Make a list and keep it somewhere easily accessible so that you have something tangible to reference when you feel like you need a little boost. You do you!

Honor Your Feelings

Make room for your emotions. There is a general feeling among people to be cheerful through the holiday season—it is, after all, the “most wonderful time of the year.” But sometimes, you’re just going to feel crappy. That’s okay. Let yourself feel crappy without judgment. Don’t beat yourself down for not being in the holiday spirit 24/7. Live in that unpleasant emotion, sit with it, and try to discover where it comes from. Maybe try a self-care tactic on the list you made. And if that doesn’t work, acknowledge that that’s okay.  There’s not something wrong with you because you aren’t all-consumed by the holiday spirit.

There you have it, folks: just a few simple self-care reminders as we approach the holidays. Sorry, I take that back—they aren’t necessarily simple. Some of these things are really difficult, especially if you are hard-wired into perfectionism like I am. But I will say these are essential self-care reminders, and with these in mind, you just might be able to sail into 2020 with considerably less stress than last year.

Happy Holidays!

Kristy Cloetingh is a Philadelphia native who is currently trying to figure out her place in the world. Her passions include reading, singing, dancing, nature, yoga, chicken fingers, and puppies. An anorexia survivor and mental health warrior, Kristy has made it her life’s mission to remind every single person that their bodies and minds are worthy of unconditional love and respect, regardless of size, shape, or whatever “normal” is.

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