Regardless of your political or social views, we live in a world where unsettling news stories, divisive politics, and a constant battery of information can leave us feeling rattled and overwhelmed. In the face of so much large-scale drama, our own needs can feel very small and unimportant. Maybe you think your own well-being doesn't make a difference, but I'm here to tell you that it does. In fact, I'd argue that if you're eager to see the world change, the only place to start is with yourself.
When you are happy - truly happy - you spread happiness to others. You do it by sharing your best self with the ones you love, by being more mindful about what you consume, and becoming more compassionate to those in need. It's strange to think that, by being a little bit selfish with your energy, you are ultimately able to be more selfless. You show up to every situation stronger and more resilient.
Self-care doesn't need to be as elaborate as a European retreat (but it can be! Keep reading for more on that). It can be as simple as lighting a candle and taking a bath. Here are some super-simple, inexpensive self-care activities you can do to help sustain you through the busy-ness of the holidays.
Call someone. In an era where everyone communicates via text, it can be therapeutic to share a real conversation, especially with someone you haven't heard from in a while. Just a short conversation can make you feel loved and connected, which doesn't always come across in a text message.
Read some fiction. If you're busy-busy-busy (like most of us are), you can feel a pressure to maximize even your downtime, which might mean catching up on the news, reading heavy non-fiction books, or binging on the latest hit TV shows so you don't fall behind your friends and coworkers. But reading for pleasure has real benefits. Back in 2015, the New Yorker reported that regular readers sleep better and have lower rates of depression than non-readers. It's also been shown to increase empathy.
Do something you enjoyed as a kid. This is also an activity I recommend in our 50 Fun Things workshops, and the holiday season is the perfect time to tap into the joy and wondrous energy of youth. Whether it's sledding, going to an indoor water park, taking a trip to the zoo, or sitting down with an adult coloring book, doing something you enjoyed in childhood can help you disengage and remember the same pleasures you enjoyed as a kid are still available to you now.
Make a holiday meal from scratch. Use an old-fashioned cookbook instead of your phone or tablet so you're not tempted by social media, news alerts, email, etc. Be meditative and really try to enjoy the process of cooking with all five senses. Feel gratitude for your access to fresh and healthy food year-round, and infuse the entire meal with your love for whomever you're serving it for (even if it's just you!). By the time you sit down to eat, you'll really be feeling the magic.
Schedule some "unscheduled time." This might seem like an oxymoron, but giving yourself a few days, an afternoon, even an hour of time where nothing is planned can feel like the ultimate luxury when you're constantly in "go-mode." What will you do with that time? Go to a museum, visit a cafe, or maybe...
Do a "brain dump."For this one, I have to give credit to business consultant Barbara Zuleger, who introduced me to this term. Essentially, a brain dump is when you sit down and unburden yourself of the goals, tasks, and unmade appointments that are buzzing around in your head. You write them all down, unfiltered, and then either schedule time to deal with them or cross them off your list and let them go. The important idea is to get them "on the calendar, off your mind."
Turn off all the notifications on your phone. OK, maybe not ALL of them. But news, social media, and all the other apps that vie for your attention really can wait until you're truly in a position to process them - i.e.: when you're not in the middle of doing something else. Put aside a couple 15 minute chunks of time per day to peruse your phone, and commit to not checking in unless it's during your scheduled "phone time." Exceptions can be made for urgent texts and phone calls, but Facebook and Twitter do not qualify as urgent!
Ask for help. It's easy to get so wrapped up in routine that you start to believe only you are capable of handling all the little day-to-day tasks that leave you feeling overwhelmed. Could your family help more with household tasks? Maybe it's time to outsource things like shopping for groceries, housecleaning, or (if you're an entrepreneur) mundane tasks related to your business. With services like Instacart, StitchFix, Postable, and Rover, it's never been easier to find affordable help for those time-sucking activities that leave you feeling frazzled.
Pick something to care less about.
Is there a job you hate doing but continue to do because you're afraid of letting others down? Maybe it's keeping a perfectly clean house. Maybe it's maintaining your children's incredibly-demanding schedule of extracurricular activities. Or, maybe it's finding the "perfect" present for your 20 extended family members. If you sit down to do a task and your brain immediately says "ugh!" - listen. Call a meeting with the people involved, be honest, and try to figure out a way to compromise. Chances are, your perception of how much they care is greater than how much they actually care.
Take a trip. OK, I know these tips are supposed to be free and easy, but really - there is no substitute for a real vacation. Why? The ideas above all have one thing in common - they're about disengaging: getting out of your routine and either taking a break from or finding a new perspective on the things that stress you out. Nothing is better for disengaging than actually, physically getting away! My trip to Tuscany last fall was something I thought was out of reach until I put it on my 50 Fun Things list. Doors opened unexpectedly, and I was asked to facilitate a 50 Fun Things workshop at this life-changing retreat. Check it out - it's more accessible than you might think!