While the holidays can be a lovely time filled with joy, good food and catching up with loved ones, they can also be a bit draining.
For every good thing about the season, there are also hours of traveling, endless work parties, and meeting your significant other's family for the first time. To paraphrase a literary great: it’s the best of times, and it’s the worst of times.
Let’s take a quick look at those worst of times, shall we? Like when your mom says something about the election, or decides to berate you about your weight at the dinner table. Or maybe you'll find yourself waiting in a line at the grocery store that’s six families deep, with each child already strung out on marshmallow Santas. When holiday stress hits you all at once, it's time for some self-care.
Self-care has become a bit of a pop culture buzzword recently, but all it really means is just taking care of yourself. Depending on who you are, self-care can be anything from a languid epsom salt bath to finding time to hit the gym consistently. It doesn’t have to mean an expensive spa day or week-long beach vacation (though, you know, those are great too). Putting others first is generally a good thing, but during the holidays especially, it's important to care for yourself. You can only nourish others when you’ve got a bit of water yourself.
We’ve collected a five easy ways to give yourself a break without dumping out your holiday piggy bank. Read on for some magical ways to get relief fast when you need it most.
Take a bath. A glorious, glorious bath.
I have kind of a thing for baths, what of it? Baths are the ultimate me-time. They are private, they are warm and womb-like, and you can dress them up in a multitude of relaxing ways. For a bath to feel like the ultimate in self-care, I love adding lavender oil and epsom salt. Lavender oil is known for its calming properties: you can even rub a couple of drops on your hands, cup them over your face, and take a few deep breaths when you’re feeling stressed at work or out shopping. Epsom salt relaxes your muscles, so this is the perfect bath after a long work day or time spent at the gym. Make sure to roll up a hand towel to support your neck as you soak.
You can also read a novel, light candles, add a bath bomb, eat some dark chocolate, or listen to a book on tape. Bath possibilities are endless! As long as it feels wonderful to you, it's self-care.
I started off with an easy bath; now I want you to close your eyes and become a thought-free Buddha. Just kidding. Meditation is more about observing your thoughts than ceasing to have them. Meditation can be intimidating for beginners, so I suggest making it as easy as possible with a good smartphone app.
My favorite is Insight Timer. This is a free app that comes loaded with over 3,000 guided meditations. If you look at the Top 20, you’ll find meditations that help you sleep, meditations to release anxiety, and even one-minute meditations. Meditation is all about taking a much-needed mental break, and becoming less reactionary—making it perfect for holiday season self-care!
Invest in a small, cheap foot massager.
I’m a huge fan of self-massage, and I use this little foot-massaging ball daily. It’s maybe the best $6 I ever spent. It’s a hard plastic ball with little nubs, and you simply roll it around under your foot. You can do this sitting down for light pressure, or you can stand up and put more weight on it, to really get in there. It may look like a dog toy (you’ll probably want to keep it away from Fido), but it’s the perfect tool for getting into those tight spots. I bought these as stocking stuffers for everyone in my family last year and they loved them!
Get outside and play.
When I’m stressed, I love going for a walk in the forest. There’s something about being surrounded by trees and animals that calms me down and brightens my outlook. When I take these walks, I don’t focus on exercise. I dilly, I dally, I walk off path and explore slowly (armed with a trusty compass and GPS, of course). Sometimes I sing to the trees because, let’s face it, I’m pretty weird. You don’t have to take it as far as IRL tree-hugging, but walking in nature has been shown to soothe the mind and improve mental health. If you can’t get to a proper forest, a city park or waterfront feels pretty great too.
You can also try a beauty scavenger hunt on any walk or commute. Try finding five or ten beautiful things as you travel to work—maybe changing leaves, some sparkly morning dew, a young lad giving up his seat for an elderly woman on the train. Noticing beauty makes us feel good, and gives us a lasting positive focus.
Get a Spoonk.
I have turned about ten people onto the Spoonk so far. I mean, I think Oprah turned a million people onto the Spoonk, but I’m still proud of my numbers. What’s a Spoonk? It’s an acupressure mat that treats neck and back tension with hundreds of little plastic spikes that dig into your skin. Wait, where are you going?
Honestly, I don’t have a high pain tolerance, and I love my Spoonk. Most times I fall asleep on it. Fifteen minutes on this thing always relieves my neck and back pain for a few hours. I usually throw on some soft music or a meditation podcast, and get the most self-care possible out of my Spoonk'in time. Cover yourself with a soft blanket, use some pillows as under-the-knee bolsters, and grab a scented eye pillow for the ultimate mini-retreat.
It was hard to choose just five self-care practices to share with you. There are so many, from self-massage to throwing a mini dance party in your kitchen. Self-care is all about taking time for yourself, and nourishing yourself in healthy ways. I recommend trying one or more of these practices for 21 days, to build yourself a nice habit. Just fifteen minutes a day will help you deal with everyday and holiday stresses, and help you build a nurturing relationship with you.
This story originally appeared on Brad's Deals.