Elyssa Favis - December 31st 2020 - 3 min read

Happy Holidays, Brilliant Minds!

As we reflect on the extraordinary year we’ve had, many of us are already contemplating our plans for the upcoming year. Many are hastily creating new year’s resolutions and planning ahead for a new school semester, all while dealing with the natural busyness of the holiday season. Though planning for the future is proactive, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by your own expectations. For some, the holiday season means taking care of everything that could go better next year, and less emphasis on oneself. Practicing self-care is especially important in the midst of a naturally stressful time, so here is a list of ways to practice self-care over your holiday break.

Practice gratitude. Think about what you’re thankful for this holiday season. Write it in a journal, or tell someone what you’re grateful for. Practicing gratitude requires appreciating what you have, and allows you to relish good experiences, feel more positive emotions, and build stronger relationships.

Be present. Mindfulness enhances self-awareness and makes it easier to savour the small pleasures of life. Take some time to be fully aware of your surroundings by noticing the sights, smells, and sounds of your environment. Drawing attention to bodily sensations and letting them pass allows you to be fully aware of your emotional and physical state.

Stay attuned to your emotions. In stressful circumstances, our emotions may fluctuate more often than usual. Address how you’re feeling from time to time and express them by writing them down or telling a loved one how you feel. Take note of any situations where you are feeling the most stressed. Are these situations consistent over time? How can you change these circumstances or how you react to them?

Forget perfection. In an age where it’s easier than ever to compare yourself to others, don’t aim for the “perfect holiday.” Though we all strive for a memorable holiday season, you may be setting yourself up for a lot of stress and disappointment by striving for perfection. Letting go of perfection means having an authentic holiday celebration, even if it means making a mistake or two.

Identify your priorities. What is most important to you this year? Is it spending time with your loved ones? Is it wrapping up a successful school year? Around the holidays, we may feel so overwhelmed trying to check off boxes on our ‘to-do’ lists that we forget what truly serves us. By asking yourself “what is most important to me?” you focus on the things that are the most fulfilling, and abandon attempts to ‘do it all.’

Empower yourself to set better goals. Self-reflection is common during the holiday season. As you acknowledge the year behind you and prepare for the year ahead, consider your strengths. How did you make use of these strengths over the year? How have you worked towards personal growth? Instead of reminiscing on the resolutions you abandoned, consider all that went well and use the remaining gaps to readjust your goals for the new year.

Go back to the basics. For many, self-care means taking long baths, getting a massage, and treating yourself. Although pampering oneself is just one aspect of self-care, the real meaning of ‘self-care’ is to focus on healthy foundations. Exercise, sleep, and eating well builds physical and mental strength while broadening your stress tolerance and resilience. Some simple self-care practices include:

+ Deep breathing

+ Meditating, journaling, or reading to practice mindfulness

+ Spending time alone to decompress

Relax. Relaxing is simply a gift to yourself. It slows your heart rate, improves sleep quality, and boosts your confidence to handle problems. However, when we talk about relaxation in everyday life, it seems like a luxury – something we can’t fit into our schedules. Rather than thinking of what you should be doing to decompress, ask yourself, “what makes me feel relaxed and revived?”. After all, ‘relaxation’ doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone.

On behalf of Help Young Minds, we hope that these tips help you decompress during the rest of your winter break. Remember to take time to nurture your own needs and emotions so that you can appreciate the meaning of this holiday season. Have a happy new year!