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As the holidays approach, bringing higher levels of stress and anxiety with them, you likely spend a lot more time recommending that your clients regularly practice some type of self-care.
After all, it’s pretty difficult to tend to all of the extra obligations this time of year generally brings—such as travel, family-related events, decorating, gift shopping and event planning—if people don’t look after their own health and wellness first, right? While it would be nice to think that clients listened to this standard piece of advice, research shows that this isn’t exactly the case.
For example, results from the 2016 American Time Use Survey show that the average married female with children spends just .19 hours per day participating in exercise, sports or recreation, and just .63 hours per day socializing or communicating. (For married men, those figures are .26 and .59 respectively).
In short: the push for self-care isn’t being taken seriously—and perhaps you aren’t even looking after your own well being as much as you know you should.
This means that we as a whole–massage therapists and the general public alike–really need to change how we look at the act of taking better care of ourselves. It’s time that we realize that self-care is an absolute necessity and not just a luxury, especially during the holiday season.
Self-Care is Not a Luxury
Stress can be especially problematic around the holidays, especially for specific segments of the population. In a survey done by Healthline, 65 percent of respondents from Gen X and 61 percent of millennials feel some stress during the holidays. About 62 percent of baby boomers feel stress during this time as well.
As a result, many people view the holidays as a time to dread, not a time to look forward to. Ultimately, this can affect our physical health.
Erin Stair, M.D., M.P.H., author of Manic Kingdom and founder of Blooming Wellness, a website providing readers with information related to all things wellness, says, “A lot of folks think self-care has to be luxurious, but that’s not the case. A stressed-out, sleep-deprived, nutrition-starved mind functions at a less than optimal level, and worst case scenario, leads to total dysfunction.”
To better prove her point, Stair shares that “stress has been linked to approximately [75-85 percent of chronic illnesses].” The American Medical Association puts that figure at 60 percent—but regardless, we can agree that stress is major contributor to health problems.
For instance, research in the Journal of Adult Development notes that, when it comes to Type 2 diabetes, “Even when medication, diet and physical activity regimens are maintained, blood sugar levels might not be effectively controlled because stress triggers the release of sugar into the blood.”
This means you can be doing everything right to take care of your health as a diabetic, but stress can undo all of the good you’ve done if you don’t manage your stress levels.
Stress can also negatively affect other systems in our body, according to the American Psychological Association. For example, if you have asthma or emphysema, chronic stress can make it even harder to breathe.
Stress that is consistently high can also lead to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. It can cause you to overeat, smoke or drink in an attempt to cope, with each behavior leading to other health issues. Stress can also create digestive issues, problems with your reproductive system (for men and women both), and more.
This is why, as Stair says, “It’s very important to actively reduce stress in our lives,” placing emphasis on the active part as that’s what you need to do with regard to your stress reduction, not just sitting passively by and hoping it takes care of itself.
This can help “ensure you are functioning at your optimal level and not setting yourself up for an illness, breakdown or state of emotional [or] physical exhaustion,” says Stair.
So, what type of self-care can provide this type of effect?
The first step to practicing effective self-care involves “purposely taking time to unplug from a busy, stressful schedule to check in with yourself and relax,” says Stair.
When performing this check-in, or self-assessment, you want to honestly, and without judgment, ask yourself these types of questions:
- How am I feeling?
- Why am I feeling this way?
- How am I eating?
- Am I sleeping?
- Am I exercising?
- Am I happy?
Asking yourself these types of things regularly, even jotting down your answers in a journal or notebook, is a great way to get in touch and stay in touch with yourself and cultivate ideas for self-improvement, says Stair.
“If the basics aren’t in place, the other self-care treats won’t be super helpful to you in the long-term,” she explains.
While this activity can be performed year-round, there are some tips that can be extra effective during the busy holiday season.
Helpful Self-Care Tips Geared Toward Holiday Time
Stair says that some of the self-care activities you want to address first and foremost are those related to eating more healthily, sleeping better and getting physical exercise.
While it may feel harder to do these things when you’re so busy planning, attending and cleaning up after all of your holiday functions, to ignore these three basics can ultimately do more harm than good.
For instance, one action you can take is to come up with a strategy to not over-indulge during the holiday season, says Stair.
“You don’t want to sabotage your basics, so figure out how you are going to handle the plethora of holiday treats and drinks before the parties or sitting down at the dinner table,” she says.
For instance, maybe you’ll decide to eat only the two to three things that you can get during the holidays, leaving the other indulgent foods behind.
Stair also suggests that you find a way to incorporate “fun, stress-reducing, healthy activity that you enjoy” into your schedule as often as possible.
Add these events to your calendar to remind yourself that these activities are a priority and not something that should be ignored.
Additionally, because you may not be able to totally unplug from all of your electronic devices during the stressful holiday season, Stair says that you should incorporate technology into your self-care routine.
“Use a guided meditation, audio book, meditation app, mental health app, or sound therapy program,” she suggests
There are many tools available via devices and apps, enabling you to select the one or two that can provide you some much-needed stress relief.
Finally, Stair recommends that you “take breaks from the consumer and family madness” that is typically consistent with the holiday season.
Do this by enjoying a nice, warm bubble bath, watching an old movie or simply sitting in front of the fireplace and meditating. Other suggestions offered by Stair are to take a walk in the woods, walk around your neighborhood to see the beautiful and twinkling lights or sit in the warmth of your home and make a list of all of the things you’re grateful for.
Holidays may be more stressful, but that doesn’t mean you have to simply give in and accept a higher level of tension and unease solely because it’s a demanding season.
Instead, take the time to look after yourself mentally, physically and spiritually—and start to enjoy the holidays again.
About the Author
Christina DeBusk is a freelance writer dedicated to providing readers relevant, research-backed content related to health and wellness, personal development, safety, and small business ownership.
About LaVida Massage
LaVida Massage is a leading provider of health and wellness services. Offering an array of affordable and convenient therapeutic massage modalities, LaVida Massage caters to busy, active lifestyles in gender and age-neutral settings. Founded in 2007 in Brighton, Michigan, LaVida Massage is dedicated to the ideal that massage should be an affordable part of an overall healthy lifestyle and wellness plan.
As more consumers understand and seek the mental and physical health benefits that massage therapy has been proven time and again to offer, the LaVida Massage Corporation franchise continues to grow to meet this demand in the thriving holistic health and wellness industry. LaVida Massage, a member of the International Franchise Association (IFA), has more than 50 centers in 20 U.S. states and in Canada.