couple sitting at table looking at the laptop

Self Care Around the Holidays

There’s something about the holidays that can amp things up; family, old memories, things unspoken, even movies designed to cheer us up, in which everything ends up perfect and wrapped up with a bow, but leaves us feeling less-than by comparison.

Many people have to also deal with grief, the ghosts of trauma past and life challenges, and all these things can add up to a stressful holiday period. So I’ve put together a simple guide with suggestions for making self-care a priority throughout your holiday season.

  1. Think about any pressures you’re putting yourself under.

These may be unspoken, or things we’re unaware of. Are you pressuring yourself to provide others with a certain experience, buy the perfect gifts, do things a certain way, be with certain people?

Consider if all/ any of these pressures are necessary. It may help to think about why them seem necessary, and then gently challenge that thought. The underlying impulse may be good, but does it need to look exactly the way you think, or be achieved in the way you’re planning? Is there a way that feels better to you (perhaps lower stress, less expensive or more genuine to you)?

2. Consider what stresses you’re anticipating.

That’s the thing with long-term friends and family isn’t it? We usually already know what they do that stresses us out, and often just anticipating that causes stress in advance. If there’s anything specific you’re worried about happening, see if you can create an alternative plan, boundaries, a get-out clause or pre-emptively communicate to see if you can lessen the stress and boost your feeling of safety and relaxation.

3. Consider which expectations are unhealthy.

Unrealistic expectations are the hallmark (excuse the pun) of Christmas movies, so it’s normal to feel a heightened sense of expectation and even fear of disappointment already.

This can be especially hard for anyone who’s experienced trauma – i.e. the idea you “should” be with your family of origin (even if that is painful for you). What expectations are you trying to live up to? And do any of them require you to abandon yourself in some way to achieve them? This is not just for trauma survivors, we all experience social pressures that can make us forget about ourselves.

There may be a more genuine way to honour your expectations and wants this holiday season. It may not look like a perfect Christmas movie, but being genuine starts within. You can consider what an expectation’s best intention is and then a way to meet it in the way that allows all of you to show up. For example, from the social expectation that you should be with your family or origin, you can take the message that you should be kind-hearted and loyal. Then you can consider: who do I genuinely want to be kind-hearted and loyal towards, and how would I like to show that this holiday season? Or who do I feel deserves my kindness and loyalty, and how do I want to express that?

4. Create pockets of time and space

This can be especially important for introverts, but we all need our version of this. If you know you need alone time for at least an hour every day, set that up right from the start of a visit. If you know you need physical space, make sure you take that time for yourself. You can use an excuse, such as I just started walking an hour a day and I like to do it alone, or you can be brutally honest; I love you, but I need an hour alone every day to feel good. Think about what will help you to stay present and happy through the holidays and ways to set those boundaries in advance.

5. What do you want from the holidays?

Expectations and pressures are rife, and it may feel like we already know what we want from the holidays – the perfect Christmas meal/ time with loved ones/ time off work/ playing a computer game non-stop etc. But it’s easy to assume we know what we want, without actually considering it.

So, take a moment to think about what the ideal would be. Lots of baths, walks, talks, food, friends, laughter, games, sleep, cuddles, books, learning a skill, exploring a new place. Bear in mind it doesn’t have to be what is expected of you. When you know your top goals, you can put some things in place to increase the likelihood of getting what you need. Remember not to try pressure others in trying to meet your needs without communication though. They may not be in a place where they can meet them.

The need for Self Care is magnified when our lives are magnified

By which I mean that our lives can take on an intensity or a high level of scrutiny over the holidays, which can end up making us feel overwhelmed, disappointed or down.

I believe a large part of this stress comes from the pressure of trying to meet social expectations or our own expectations in a way that forces us to abandon parts of ourselves, whether that is aspects of our personality, boundaries, or important aspects of our lifestyles. Of course relationship is about compromise, but people who love you also want all of you to show up.

I love the magic of the holidays, the movies and the general spirit of it. But, like a great pair of jeans it is meant to fit us, not the other way around. It is meant to help us by giving us something to look forward to and reminding us of all the good things in life. It often backfires when we hold up our lives to a false ideal, and leaves us feeling disappointed. So, when you consider your self care this holiday season, you might want to think about what makes life special to you, and how you can celebrate that in a way that feels right and good to you personally. Happy holidays!


Woman surrounded by Christmas lights

By Yourself at Christmas

This post is for all the people who are going to be by themselves at Christmas and want to make the most of it. I hope one or more of these suggestions is useful, let me know how you get on!

Plan Some Fun

Being by yourself means that you get to decide exactly what you want to do and when, so I recommend planning out some really fun things that you enjoy. That might include:

  • pampering/ spa
  • sight-seeing, museums
  • restaurants (take a book?)
  • movies
  • shows
  • shopping
  • zorbing/ zip lining (or anything else fun and available in winter in your area)

It can also be something you’ve always wanted to try and never found the time. You could book these ahead of time so you have things to look forward to throughout your holidays. If you wanted, you could even plan a holiday with single people around your age, so you get to see somewhere new – a great option for people who hate to eat at restaurants and explore alone.

Meet Some Likeminded People

If you are in the mood to be social, you can find other people in the same mood using sites like or social media. You could look for groups of people you have shared interests with, which will make it easy to find something to talk about, or find an expat or out-of-towner group if you happen to be away from home.

Make the Most of Your Free Time

If you do decide to hang out alone you can also take the opportunity to teach yourself something you have been wanting to learn, such as:

  • photography
  • piano
  • a language Spanish for example),
  • ikebana/ flower arranging
  • pottery/ painting
  • computer programming/ webdesign

See how far you can progress before the holidays end.

Alternatively, if learning feels too much like hard work, how about working your way through all the classic movies you have always meant to make time to see? One of my favourites is Dune (for the Sci-fi nerds out there), but I also recommend Amelie, Stranger than Fiction, Lost in Translation, About Time and slightly older action/ adventure movies like Die Hard, Romancing the stone, Indiana jones – there’s actually too many great films to list. I’m excited for you at this point. Oh yes, and gaming – that’s a thing lots of people love too.

Create Something

Along similar lines as above, but a little more ambitious – take this free time to create something. Try and make it something you feel like doing, are excited about and will feel good for having finished. Things like:

  • a short story
  • a book outline
  • a poem
  • a painting/ drawing
  • a photography project
  • a short movie
  • a coffee table
  • a Raspberry Pi or similar
  • an idea for a video game
  • a photo book

The possibilities are limitless, but try and confine yourself to something you actually enjoy and care about. You have some time to research and experiment now, playing around with ideas and trying things – enjoy it!

Whatever you choose to do, being alone can be a wonderful gift as long as you value it and have the right attitude. Whatever you do, be intentional and do not allow feelings of FOMO to dominate. All over the world people who celebrate Christmas, Hannukah or other, will be with their loved ones, and it is guaranteed that at least one of those people is incredibly annoying, so enjoy the luxury of doing what you want, when you want and having your own space and time.