Practicing self-care during the holidays and into the new year

Illustration of person amid idepictions of sleep, exercise, reading, healthy food

For many, the holiday season is about friends and family, eating comfort foods that match the season and enjoying time to relax. As the holiday season often begins with indulging at Thanksgiving and celebrating numerous holiday parties as we approach the close of the calendar year, this sometimes can leave us feeling run down or drained, as well as having a weakened immune system.

As you prepare this holiday season, it is easy to lose sight of our regular routine, which can include lapsing in our exercise, healthy eating/meal preparation, even sidetracking our normal daily patterns. Additionally, entertaining and evening gatherings can disrupt a usual routine and wear us down. Maintaining self-care practices are fundamental in our ability to promote and maintain good health, prevent disease and cope. As you prepare for this holiday season and enter a new year, here are some considerations and potential goals for self-care.

Relax. If you are fortunate to have time off from work, make good use of this downtime and enjoy some quiet time, nourish the mind by reading a book you have been meaning to pick up, perhaps practice stillness and just breathing, and maybe even a warm bubble/salt bath. This is time to reset, relax and rejuvenate!

Exercise with family and friends. Take advantage of socializing through exercise, which can include winter walking or hiking, perhaps even with snowshoes or skis, or simply a walk after dinner. Playing outdoors in winter is especially important as we move through these winter months, and include those you most cherish, especially kids, grandkids and any four-legged friends.

Don’t forget sleep! Sleep quality and sleep hygiene are becoming increasingly important, and many research studies have shown the potential negative effects of lack of sleep or disruption in sleep patterns. Even though we may know the importance of sleep, take advantage of any time off to get to bed earlier or sleep a little later, even if it is only for one day. Try to maintain a regular sleep routine if possible.

Connect. Reaching out to others and performing acts of service are great ways to connect. The last few years have called for creative discovery with personal connections, and as we move through this holiday season, consider ways to connect and reconnect. Giving an extra tip to a server, supporting local shelters, helping older neighbors with snow removal, or being a secret helper are simple ways to give back. Taking this time also gives us perspective on our own lives. Don’t forget to take time to connect to yourself, this could be through any contemplative practice that resonate the most with you and can renew your sense of self and improve emotional balance as you move through your day.

Detox. There are many ways to detoxify your system. This can be through clean eating, eating light, or just noticing and avoiding food and drink that make you feel weighed down. Clean eating embraces whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy proteins and fats. It also means cutting back on refined grains, additives, preservatives, unhealthy fats and large amounts of added sugar and salt. A good strategy for holiday parties is to eat a light meal before to nourish your body and avoid the unknown or overindulging.

Journaling. As families get together for the holidays, it can stir up many emotions, the good, the bad and the ugly. Try to work through any drama by writing down your thoughts and feelings; journaling can help free your mind of any strong emotions that might come up.

Gratitude. Expressing gratitude is a simple and easy way to center yourself and be present in the moment. As you move through these next couple weeks of shopping, family visits and celebrations that may lead to overeating, taking a moment to make a list of what you are thankful for is a great way to honor what is good in your life and possibly curb any “bah humbug” moments.

Please visit our Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center YouTube channel for nutrition, yoga and Pilates videos:

Stay tuned for more programming in the new year including a healthy eating workshop, cooking demonstrations, yoga, mindfulness, energy healing/reiki, Qigong, support groups and more! Visit our events calendar.

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