Self Care During the Holiday Season

Ah, holiday season; the most wonderful time of the year. We are now entering the familiar season of family, gift giving, and good spirits. As students, we’ll trudge through our finals, keeping the long-awaited hometown arrival in our minds for inspiration. Soon, we’ll just be couch potatoes without a care in the world. For a few weeks, anyway.

In the midst of holiday cheer being thrust upon us by nearby stores, TV ads, or radio stations, it’s too easy to get caught up in it all. I can honestly say I love to see the jolly decor, twinkly lights outside of houses, and watching “Elf” or “The Polar Express” in my coziest pajamas. However, sometimes it can feel like we only get one option during the holidays: be cheerful, merry, and bright at all times. Though it may be ideal, that’s not always the case.

For many, holidays can bring stress. We stress over buying the perfect gift for the perfect person. We stress over all of the family gatherings we go to, where we wrack our brains for all the highlights of the school year so far. As we catch up with relatives, we want to sound as good as our Instagram pages make us look. Who actually wants to hear how many times we’ve doubted our choice of major, debated adding on that minor, or how that essay we wrote last week caused a slight existential crisis, anyway? We even stress over the fact that our nearest Rite Aid starting putting holiday decorations out before Halloween had even passed (I know I can’t be the only one!).

The holiday season comes fast and furious; this time of rest and relaxation over break can still make us feel tired or worn out. And that’s OK. In addition to the normal stressors, this season can also be hard in other ways. Holidays, especially those when we celebrate what we have and what we’re thankful for, often serve as reminders of what we’re missing.

This will be my third Christmas since my dad passed away in 2015. I love Christmas and all the fun that comes with it, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt, too. Last year, my family didn’t even bother buying a tree. Often times I find myself wishing I could just sleep through October to January. It can be hard to feel present and authentic without being the Debbie Downer of your friend’s white elephant party. However, what I’ve learned in the past three years is that we don’t need to be in happy holiday mode 24/7. More importantly, if we feel the opposite of merry, it’s crucial that we take time for ourselves.

Over this upcoming break, go to all of the holiday parties, watch all your favorite holiday classics, and check in with your family and friends. In between those moments though, do what you feel you need to do, too. If you find yourself feeling ambushed by holiday spirit, take a drive by yourself. Play your favorite song too loud and sing along even louder. Go for a walk. Call a friend. Buy a fancy bath bomb, and take the most luxurious bath you’ve ever taken. Whatever it is you need, do it! A major part of this year involves giving, but, as cheesy as it sounds, make sure you’re giving back to yourself, too.