Self Care Over the Holidays Is Essential for Survival—These 4 Steps Will Get You There

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Meet Wellness Collective, our new, immersive curriculum with Athleta that hooks you up with actionable advice from the smartest experts and brand founders in wellness right now. Get the goods at our monthly event series in New York City, plus our online one-month wellness plans. Here, Kelsey Patel, reiki master, empowerment coach, and thought leader shares how to prioritize self care during the holidays. 

Picture this: It's December, your packing list won't stop growing, and you still haven't purchased any gifts. Add family, friends, and distant relatives to the mix, and dedicating time to yourself becomes nonexistent. But have you ever paused to think why you stop caring about your own needs as soon as the cheery music starts playing and the string lights pop up?

"To me it’s because suddenly everyone puts on their 'old' hats and roles and want to show up and essentially perform for their family versus being themselves and showing up exactly as they are," says Kelsey J. Patel, reiki master and empowerment coach. "You’d be surprised what can happen when you start speaking and sharing your truth versus doing everything you think everyone else wants you to do."

So take it from Patel: This is your permission to stop repeating the same script about what you do for work, who you're dating (or not dating), whether you're having a baby, and so on—and just be yourself.

"We receive this time to get back to ourselves and our inner circle so we can replenish, refuel, and hopefully re-fill our cups," Patel says. "Find what works for you each year (and it may be different every time!) and question what it is you actually need so you can gift yourself that this holiday season." 

Try shifting your mindset heading into the holidays with this one-month guide for how to take care of yourself during the stressful season.

how to take care of yourself

Before you swing your legs out of those cozy sheets in the morning, do a mental check-in to figure out exactly what you need that day (without thinking of anyone or anything else). "I make space in my calendar just for me," Patel says. "It doesn’t matter if we’re at home and hosting, going to be with family or friends, traveling or anything in between." If you wake up in the mood for some yoga, get stretching. If you'd rather be alone and listen to a podcast, settle in.

When you take those few minutes to show up for yourself, you'll be able to show up for everyone else, too—not just phoning in a few smiles for photos or lending a hand for stirring.

Relaxation is a part of the holiday experience to embrace, but that doesn't mean you should shun all physical activity. "One of the quickest and easiest ways to shift your mindset is by physically moving your body," Patel says. "Take a little time each day to move the energy of the body and watch how you will shift the energy of the mind."

Think about how much more chipper you are as a human once you exit a spin or Pilates class or even go on a brisk walk. Maybe all your previous holiday hometown visits needed were just a few more burpees?

how to take care of yourself

Just because you were invited to five thousand holiday parties and potlucks, doesn't mean you need to go to all of them. (Shocking, right?) "Give yourself some unplanned time, so you aren’t left feeling exhausted and burned out at the end of the day," Patel says. 

This is where the sentence "I just need some space" isn't a negative thing—it's just a moment to be up-front about what you need (and don't need) from the people in your life. "Let there be some sacred space to be present and to lay around, to have a long chat over tea with a loved one, to hang out in your PJs for longer than normal, to take an afternoon nap or a long, healing bath," Patel adds. 

This final step is for you to find common ground with your loved ones over something you like to do. "It could be going to take a class together, making your favorite foods and getting everyone involved, listening to a meditation, doing homemade face masks and watching your favorite movie," Patel says. "Share the things that bring you joy and let your loved ones in on it too."  

So let go of what you think you owe everyone else this season and look inward to see what you need—and that pre-, mid-, and post-holiday angst will slowly fade.

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