Recently, I asked a friend how she was going to stay sane during the holidays. She thought I was joking. Unfortunately, her reaction wasn’t all that out of the ordinary. I think most people resign themselves to the idea that the holidays will always be chaotic, stressful and exhausting. But if you’re in recovery, it’s important to keep a handle on your stress levels and make sure you hold onto your sobriety, so you can enter the new year feeling refreshed instead of frazzled.

What Is Self-Care and Why Is it Important?

Self-care was an unfamiliar concept to me when I was in early recovery. I thought it related to showering regularly and brushing your teeth. The idea of setting aside time to make sure you looked after yourself, rested adequately, and restored your energy levels was completely foreign to me.

Ultimately, self-care simply means taking time to look after your needs, be they mental, spiritual, emotional and physical. Self-care is a range of activities that improve your sense of well-being. In particular, self-care is a great way to manage any mental health conditions and maintain wellness in your recovery.

What’s important is that these activities help you avoid extreme states of stress and burnout. That said, they can also be used as part of a rescue plan if you do feel particularly exhausted over-exerted.

Self-Care Strategies for the Holidays

I was amazed by all of the things I could do to relieve my stress instead of using drugs and alcohol: restorative yoga, meditation, retreats, massages, float tanks, kundalini yoga, talk therapy, swimming, walking in nature, sharing circles, recovery meetings, book studies, workout classes, drawing, art workshops, creative time, crafting… the list is endless.  The key is getting curious and finding what works for you. Try new classes or activities. Pay attention to what you enjoy, and what provides stress relief for you.

Self-care can be practiced at any time, but it is most effective if you make it part of your normal, daily routine. Here are some useful ways to make these self-care activities part of your everyday life:

  1. Block out time in your organizer for a self-care activity. For example, I plan out an hour every morning to make coffee, meditate and journal.
  2. Make self-care appointments non-negotiable. If someone wants to see you during that time, or you’re asked to go into work early, try to say no and explain that you are busy. Remember, you are in no position to help others if you haven’t taken care of yourself.
  3. Use self-care time as an opportunity to check-in with your body and mind for a few minutes. Ask yourself how you feel, both mentally and physically. Writing it down can help you process thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
  4. Make a list of self-care activities that you enjoy. Narrow down your top three, and remember them during times when you need extra care the most.
  5. Block out other distractions during your self-care time. Try not to think about chores that need to be done, or what you’re having for dinner. This time should be dedicated entirely to you for rest, relaxation and restoration.

By ensuring you look after yourself during the holidays, you can keep your stress levels manageable, enter the new year feeling refreshed, and feel ready for the new challenges that await you. And that’s all anybody could ask for.