This post is sponsored by New Chapter. Thanks for supporting the brands that make TFD possible. As always, opinions are my own!
Self care has become a bit of a buzz word as of late. Wellness influencers posting pictures of facials and pedicures and $12 green juices using the hashtag #selfcare sets up a very unrealistic expectation of what self-care actually is.
Self care does not have to be sexy. It does not have to be Insta-worthy. It does not have to be glamorous. It can be basic. If we set up unrealistic expectations and ideals for our self care, it becomes stress-full, not stress-combating. It loses its purpose.
With the holidays quickly approaching, the last thing we need is one more thing to stress out about. A 2015 survey found that 62% of participants stated their stress levels were somewhat or very elevated during the holiday season. Holiday stress and the holiday blues are real people. With increased demands and commitments, financial stress, travel, challenging family dynamics, and grieving loved ones, there’s so much emotional stress that comes up this time of year. If you’re struggling, please know that you are not alone and don’t be afraid to reach out to let someone know how you’re feeling.
Stress has all sorts of impacts on our health. In the medical community, we refer to the wear and tear on our body as a result of stress as “allostatic load.” And research shows that those with a higher allostatic load have higher risks of mortality and chronic disease. So chronic stress is no joke. We need to prioritize our mental health as much as we do our physical health. And that’s where self care practices come in.
Self care can help support our overall health and response to stress. If we’re filling up our own cup, we’re better able to better manage the stress in our lives. But let’s keep self care simple this holiday season, shall we? We can save the $12 green juices for another time (or never).
1. Start each day with a nourishing breakfast.
For some of you this might sound like commonsense however, a recent study found that only 1/3 of Americans eat breakfast every day. Skipping breakfast can definitely set you up for increased stress during the day. When you skip breakfast, your blood sugar is low, causing you to feel hangry, fatigued, sluggish, irritable, aka all the feelings you don’t want to feel when you’re at a crowded mall buying a present for your great Aunt who you barely know. Starting your day with a nourishing breakfast will provide you with the fuel you need to tackle all your holiday commitments.
2. Get enough sleep.
Stress and lack of sleep go hand-in-hand. If you’re not sleeping well, this can exacerbate stress levels and vice versa stress can impact sleep quality. Research shows that adults who sleep fewer than 8 hours a night are more likely to report symptoms of stress than those who get at least 8 hours. When we’re busy and overbooked, sleep can move lower down the priority list. We might stay up later wrapping gifts or writing out holiday cards or coming home from a holiday party. But adequate sleep is crucial during times when we’re more vulnerable to stress. To help support sleep, try out one or a few of these suggestions:
- Wear an eye mask
- Wear earplugs (this works wonders for me personally and if you’re a light sleeper, it will help too)
- Try a calming essential oil, like lavender, before bed. You can rub it on your temples, pillow, or diffuse it into the room
- Avoid screen time for at least 30-60 minutes before bed as the blue light from screens can suppress melatonin, your sleep hormone.
- Try a yoga nidra or sleep meditation before bed. My favorite bedtime meditation is called Breathing Into Sleep on the Insight Timer app.
3. Take a multivitamin.
Taking a multivitamin can be a nice insurance policy to make sure you are getting 100% of all the nutrients you need. We know that certain nutrients, like B vitamins, can play a role in managing stress and supporting our nervous system. Taking a multivitamin daily can be an easy way to practice self care that only will cost you about 10 seconds. However, there are so many vitamins on the market that it can certainly get confusing about which one to choose. I like New Chapter Every Woman’s One Daily Multivitamin because it’s formulated with nutrients for stress and energy support and fermented with probiotics and whole foods to make each nutrient more available for absorption.* And because they are fermented, they’re also really easy on the stomach, meaning you can take one on an empty stomach with no GI distress. As someone who struggles to take her vitamins daily, I like the flexibility of being able to take a multivitamin any time of day, with or without a meal. New Chapter’s multivitamin is also 100% vegetarian, Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Gluten Free, and contains no added fillers. You can find New Chapter at Whole Foods, CVS, Amazon and local health food stores.
4. Take a 5-minute mindfulness break each day.
I once had a client tell me her meditation teacher told her she needed to meditate every day for 60 minutes. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Her meditation practice was causing her stress and anxiety because it was so unrealistic. Kind of defeats the purpose, right?! I mean if you can meditate for an hour every day, more power to ya, and please tell me your secrets. But if you’re on the human struggle bus like most of us and strapped for time, just committing to 5 minutes a day can have tremendous effects on your stress levels. And a mindfulness break does not mean you have to sit down to formally meditate. There are many ways you can practice mindfulness for 5 minutes:
- Practicing deep breathing: inhaling to a count of 4 and exhaling to a count of 4
- Washing the dishes – focusing on the task at hand, noticing the temperature of the water, the sensation of touching the dishes, etc.
- Taking a walk without distractions – observing the colors, shapes and sounds around you
- Listening to a guided meditation on a meditation app
- Lighting a candle and watching the flame flicker
5. Engage in movement that feels good in your body.
Movement can help to manage stress levels as long as we’re not engaging in rigid or obsessive exercise or forms of movement that we don’t actually enjoy. Remember that all forms of movement count – walking, dancing, playing with your kiddos, cleaning the house, etc. You don’t have to kill yourself at the gym every day for it to count. For substantial health benefits, The Institute of Medicine recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (brisk walking, swimming, biking on level terrain) a week or 1 hour 15 minutes of high-intensity exercise (jogging, tennis, biking uphill) a week. Maybe try a new form a movement this holiday season that you think you might enjoy like yoga, snowshoeing, skiing, or nature walks.
Self care shouldn’t be stressful. Keep it basic. Keep it simple. And give yourself the gift of taking care of yourself this holiday season.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is notintended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.