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Unlocking True Holiday Joy: The Power of Self-Care for Mental Well-Being

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

QUESTION: Do you run yourself ragged over the holidays???

I know I have a habit of overextending myself to do ALL the holiday activities from >>>>FOMO! (otherwise known as the fear of missing out). When I see social media pictures of families all dressed in matching Christmas

White christmas gift with a red and white ribbon and burlap bow. One hand holding it with red nail polish

outfits with perfectly wrapped presents under a perfectly decorated tree or posing at the dinner party, I feel defeated. I have an idea in my head of what the holidays “should” look like: filling the house with the smells of gingerbread; festive outfits every day; decorating the house with just the right mixture of country chic (or whatever the current style is) décor; having all my gifts bought and wrapped ON TIME; attending all the gatherings; holiday card in the mail; ice skating in the town square; I could go on. But I find myself—more often than not—in sweats and my hair tossed in a bun while frantically fighting traffic, trying to find the last set of Christmas lights in the entire city, racking my brain for gifts for friends, scrolling amazon for hours trying to get inspired, having one baking catastrophe after another, and feeling exhausted, irritable, and little of the Christmas spirit. I feel like I have failed at the opportunity to have a great, memorable holiday experience. I feel emotional. Overwhelmed. Sad even.

It’s during this time, now more than ever, we must remind ourselves that we have been fed an unrealistic narrative of what and how the holidays “SHOULD” be. Maybe you too have the case of “shoulding” all over yourself??

>>>>>Enter: SELF- CARE<<<<<

Even as a therapist, I admittedly have a hard time with this term and often roll my eyes at how overused it is. But there is great value in it, especially during this time of year when so many are overworked, and the days are short and dark and cold. But there is also so much more to self-care than a mani-pedi or a bubble bath.

“The ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a medical provider.” It further asserts that self-care involves personal factors like empowerment, self-reliance, autonomy, self-efficacy, and personal responsibility (WHO, 2019).

Self-care is also doing what is necessary to eliminate the stressors from your environment that are taking a toll; it is building resilience against those stressors you cannot eliminate; and it is prioritizing your needs and overall health.

Unfortunately, many people view self-care as a luxury rather than a priority. And during the holidays, there are often many additional stressors that are simply inevitable. But without direct, intentional, and actionable steps, we are likely to feel overwhelmed, emotionally depleted, and incapable of handling it all. A research article in the journal of Clinical Psychology, found that self-care is not an indulgence, but rather an essential component for prevention of distress, burnout, and impairment (Barnett and Cooper, 2009).

Where to Begin:

Cheryl Richardson, author of “The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time, advises beginning your self-care journey by first identifying where you feel most deprived in your life.

Start with these questions:

What do I need more of right now?

What do I need less of?

Who or what is causing me to feel resentful, and why?

Am I facing burnout?

What am I yearning for?

Types of Self-Care and Examples:

Physical: Drink more water; go outside for a walk; get more sunlight; get your heartrate up with a jog or high intensity workout; prepare a healthy meal with lots of leafy greens; create a bedtime routine without screens; go to sleep early so you can wake up early; see your primary care provider; see your dentist; take a shower and get dressed even when you don’t feel like it; wear sunscreen daily

Questions to ask yourself:

Are you fueling your body with the proper nutrition?

Are you addressing health concerns?

Are you getting adequate sleep and exercise?


Emotional: Keep one small promise to yourself EVERY DAY; learn new coping skills; see a therapist; journal; start a gratitude practice; practice self-awareness and articulating feelings/needs; consider where you need boundaries; DO THE HARD WORK

Questions to ask yourself:

Are you being proactive or reactive with your emotional health?

Are you utilizing coping skills?

Have you found a healthy way to process your emotions?


Social: Enforce boundaries, find a healthy support system, learn to say NO, take a break from social media, learn healthy communication, eliminate toxic relationships, find a new hobby; find an accountability partner; LAUGHTER REALLY IS MEDICINE

Questions to ask yourself:

How are you nurturing and prioritizing your relationships with friends and family?

What boundaries do you need?

Are there toxic relationships in your life?

What activities do you enjoy/would like more of in your life?


Spiritual: Meditate (even for 5 minutes); practice deep breathing; spend time alone to consider what you really want and need; say a prayer; create a sacred space; spend time in nature

Questions to ask yourself:

Are you engaging in spiritual practices you find fulfilling?

What is the most beautiful version of your life you can imagine?

Do you incorporate activities that help you feel recharged?


Space: Declutter your environment (A CLEAN AND CLEAR ENVIRONMENT HELPS CREATE A CLEAN AND CLEAR MIND); clean your space—wash your sheets so you have a fresh place to sleep, wash your dishes, do a load of laundry so you have clean clothes to wear, make your bed every morning; add plants, water features, or aromatherapy to make your environment more inviting and relaxing

Questions to ask yourself:

Do I find my home/space relaxing and soothing?

Is there clutter I can donate?

What are some small, daily habits I can incorporate into my routine?


Resources/Financial: Start by paying all your overdue bills; set up autopay or a tracking system so you pay your bills on time; set up a savings system; create a weekly/monthly budget, set boundaries around spending

Questions to ask yourself:

What are my spending habits?

Are there streaming services I don’t need?

What is a one-year savings goal?


Work: Create a work/home boundary; practice time management; take meaningful breaks; don’t do work in the bedroom; don’t check or respond to messages before bed or when first waking up

Questions to ask yourself:

Do I have a work/life balance?

Am I facing burnout?

How can I create boundaries around work so I don’t take it home with me?


Self-Care Myths

Self-Care is an indulgence

Meaningful self-care is regular and consistent work towards improving thoughts and behaviors that contribute to your wellbeing and leave you feeling nourished. Self-indulgence, however, leaves you feeling depleted, can be associated with feelings of guilt/shame, is inconsistent, and doesn’t address your underlying needs

Self-Care is selfish

When you prioritize time for your health, you will feel more energetic and able to effectively contribute to those around you

Self-Care is time consuming

Self-care does not have to take a huge chunk of time from your day but can be effective through small changes in your daily habits. Aim for 1% better each day.

At IVY Integrative, you can work with one practitioner or build your own team of holistic practitioners! Reach your optimum health in-person or online. Check out our Get Started page to learn how to work with us!

Author: Karen McKinney, LCMHCA


  1. Barnett, J., Cooper, N. (2009). Creating a culture of self-care. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. 16:1. Pp. 16-20.

  2. Richardson, C. (2009). The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time. Hay House, Carlsbad, CA.

  3. World Health Organization. (2019). Self-care can be an effective part of national health systems.

Disclaimer: This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts.

Healthy Holidays blog- self care
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