T he holiday season is upon us, dear one, and I know that for most of us, that means that the rhythm of life increases to an intensity that often feels as if your heart will burst from constantly racing. You know it’s a pace you will be unable to sustain, and yet you feel trapped, stuck, and very certain that all the tasks you’ve taken on and the demands upon you must be done and accomplished. Loving yourself and caring for your own needs is probably falling to the very bottom of the list, isn’t’ it?

Don’t think for a moment that I doubt that you can Get It All Done and Be Everything to Everyone. I’m not. I’m just asking, sugarplum, if that’s what you want?

Whether it is or not, I want to remind you that there is one thing you can do to help make things feel a little easier: take good care of yourself.  Because, darling, the last thing you want for the holidays is a big case of burnout. Not quite sure how to do that? I’ve got some suggestions for you.

Twenty-Five Loving Ways to Take Care of Yourself

One – Make a big giant to do list of everything you need to tend to in the coming weeks.

Be sure and grab your calendar and note each party and social obligation, too.  Yep, from now til New Year’s Day. You can break it out by week, by kind of task, or, if it feels too overwhelming to be on one big list, go into your calendar and write a list of MUST DO’s for the week ahead. OR, go really old school and get a stack of notecards (choose a pretty color if you want), writing one list of tasks per week. This is where my bullet journal comes in handy: I go through and log everything in each week’s pages. Writing things down helps to empty your mind from all the things swirling around inside. A master list is a loving (and easier) way to create a plan for a better pace.

Two – Once a week or more often if you can, get up before the rest of the world.

Linger over a cup of coffee or tea. Eat a big breakfast, cooking it if you love cooking or maybe making a batch of easy-heat-up breakfasts. Write in your journal or maybe spend thirty minutes working on that novel you keep saying you’ll write one day. Bundle up with a big coat, a scarf, and gloves and find a spot to watch the sun rise. Use this early morning time to ensure that your soul feels nourished. (If you’re a night owl, you can give yourself half an hour after everyone else has gone to bed. There’s something magical about a quiet house in the still of the night that tends to foster creativity.)

Three – Once a week or more often if you can, go to bed before 9 PM.

Or if you’re feeling daring, climb into bed before 8 PM, with a book and a cup of chamomile tea (no phones, no laptops). Read in bed until you get sleepy, douse the lights, and get some extra Zzzs. Make love. Linger under the covers. I love to do this on a day when I have fresh sheets on the bed. Ahhhh…. You’ll wake up feeling re-energized and ready to tackle that mountain of a to do list. Sleep is a great path to loving yourself and your life.

Four – Remember that there’s still time.

You may arrive  at the edges of the holidays and believe that your goals and resolutions were just a pipe-dream. Not true! There is still time to, if not accomplish a goal, at least make progress on it. Commit to ushering one of your dreams into reality by taking that first step towards one of your goals. Pursing your desires and making progress on your dreams is a way of loving yourself and you life.  You might not reach a goal before the new year rolls around, but that doesn’t mean you can’t begin making it happen now. You deserve to create the kind of life you desire – and going after your goals in an act in extreme self-care.

Five – Delegate, delegate, delegate.

Go back to that to-do-list or the collection of note cards and pick at least one item per week you can delegate. Don’t let the belief that you have to do it all – without help – move you further away from loving and nurturing yourself. Maybe your teenage daughter just started driving, so assign grocery shopping to her one of those weeks. Maybe you need to bring a pot luck to the work party, is that something you can get from your grocery store deli? What if you traded some shopping or cooking with a friend? You know: I’ll make triple spaghetti sauce, a lasagna, and some enchiladas for you this week, you feed me next week.  There’s no shame in the art of delegating by hiring someone! Hire someone to clean the house and rake the leaves. Hire someone to decorate for you if you hate it.

Six – If holiday cards are on your list.

If you plan on sending holiday cards, order them now. Yep, now. Go to Vistaprint or Walgreens and get it done! If you send a family Christmas letter, go ahead and write it. Put a note on your calendar to address them as soon as they arrive from the printer and have the stamped and ready to go! Sitting with my morning coffee by the fire while addressing my Christmas cards always makes me feel accomplished, which in turn makes me feel as if I’m loving my life even more. You can drop them in the mail after Thanksgiving. But no more writing out cards on December 22nd and feeling stressed about it.

Seven – Skip it, darling!

Or maybe, just maybe, skip sending cards this year. Remember, that’s a choice, too. Speaking of not sending cards, maybe you should go back to that to do list and eliminate some things. Is there a party you don’t really want to attend? Say no, I’m sorry. Besides delegating, maybe you can find a half-dozen items to NOT do. Go ahead and cross them out.  Sometimes, saying “no” is one of the most loving things you can say for your own peace of mind. No Guilt Allowed.

Eight – Listen to Your Gut.

The only way to come to trust your gut is to use it.  It is something that most women are more likely to listen to, but following it is often an entirely different thing.  Your subconscious will work for you if you let it and are willing to listen. Letting your gut be your guide as you traverse this busy time of year will always make you feel more loved.

Nine – You are always in choice is a loving reminder.

While I’m encouraging you to listen to your gut, remember that you always have the power of choice. You can say no to others. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. If you feel obligated to do something or spend time with someone you don’t enjoy, remind yourself that you are choosing to make such an effort, not that you have to. Nothing in life is truly a “must;” we just have to make peace with any consequences. Choosing to do something instead of having to do something will always feel like a loving act of self-care.

Ten – Use Your Good Stuff. Daily.

Wear your good perfume and use your “company” china. Using your good stuff every day sends the signal to your soul that you are valued. Besides, using the good stuff turns an ordinary day into an exceptional one. Loving yourself by using your best things is always a reminder of how much you care – for you!

Eleven – About the Mall.

Most of the shopping we do these days is either online or in a hurry. The crowds are stressful as is the traffic. Yet, the stores are decorated beautifully and there are always little things offered during the holiday shopping time that aren’t in stores otherwise. Choosing to designate at least one shopping excursion as a savored ritual is nourishing. And don’t forget, window shopping can be fun if you go into it with the attitude of having a few hours of exploring.

Twelve – Don’t forget YOU on your Christmas list.

Speaking of shopping, buy that thing you really want – even if – or especially if – it doesn’t seem “practical.” Yes, I’m talking about investing in that quality designer bag you’ve always wanted. Or the beautiful floral arrangement that would be perfect on your entry table. Or maybe you want something whimsical that isn’t exactly practical (I’m lusting after this adorable little coin purse!). Or maybe that big, beautiful cookbook by your favorite chef.  No, don’t go into debt or buy things that will just add clutter to your world. But if you really want something, stop denying your desires.

Thirteen – Have the Shopping List Blues?

Does gift giving have you down? Does finding the perfect gift for someone stress you out? Does your mom/partner/spouse/sister already have everything they need? Maybe it’s time to skip the gift giving? JB and I don’t exchange gifts for Christmas and I can’t tell you what a relief that is for me, to not feel that stress of a perfect gift. You may not be able to skip Santa for the little ones, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to adult children or adult siblings about exchanging names instead of gifts with everyone or something of the sort.

Fourteen – The most important meal of the day.

Get into the habit of cooking yourself a beautiful breakfast at least once a week. Sizzle up tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms in real butter and garlic, add some spinach, and then bathe those veggies with a couple of scrambled eggs for a frittata. Fry a single piece of bacon or patty of sausage. Slice up a fresh avocado and arrange it beautifully on your plate. Sit and eat it. Allow yourself to skim a magazine or doodle in your journal. Or do – gasp! – nothing but eat. NO phones allowed.

Fifteen – Feeding yourself well is a loving act.

Food has always been a loving  part of my life, especially around the holidays! The holidays bring some of my favorite foods: my grandmother’s cornbread dressing, pecan pie, and my Aunt Betty’s deviled eggs. Yet, many of us get so busy during the holidays, not only do we overindulge, we find ourselves eating a lot of drive through meals. Commit to caring for yourself by eating beautiful meals. Erase processed food from your diet, at least at home. Cook big batches of meals on a Sunday for the week. Triple recipes like meat sauce, chili, stews, or soups and freeze them. Use that InstantPot you got last year to make large batches of chicken for salads. With a little bit of planning, you can better care for yourself through the art of dining.

Sixteen – Speaking of food.

And speaking of food, commit to loving yourself body and soul by buying the best quality foods your budget will allow. Put real (full-fat) cream in your coffee, not some mix of chemicals and flavors. Oh, and use a spoon of real sugar instead of something in a yellow or blue packet. Buy yogurt made from pastured cows (Siggi’s is my favorite). Make a meatloaf with grass fed beef. Don’t stock your pantry with items that are made up of funky ingredients you can’t pronounce. Buy some really beautiful snacks for yourself. Indulge in that fancy cheese just because. Choosing to feed yourself real food made with the best possible ingredients will always be a loving act of tending your instrument.

Seventeen – What’s in your cup?

“Eat, drink, and be merry” may be your mantra for the holiday seasons. Yet, as much as I love a great cocktail or good glass of wine with dinner, I know that I need to drink more water! Make it your mission to love yourself more by ensuring you stay hydrated. Sure, it can be harder to do in the winter months. If it’s too cold to drink ice water, consider warm water with a squirt of lemon, or even herbal teas. Peppermint is a perennial favorite but an orange spice tea can add warmth and hydration to a chilly afternoon.

Eighteen – Do All The Things for yourself.

Commit to one day between now and the end of the year to doing everything you keep promising yourself you’ll do to really tend yourself. You know the things you’ll promise to do tomorrow or next week? Like floss and use the electric toothbrush for the allotted 2 minutes. Take a longer shower or a bath. Fix your hair. Use your fancy moisturizer and the eye cream. Actually remove your makeup before you go to bed. Slather your body with creams and body oils. Sit down to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Read that book or magazine you never have time for. Unplug from social media. You might be surprised how nourishing doing ALL the things feelsand how little time it truly takes.

Nineteen – About your bedroom.

Create a beautiful and nourishing environment to rest. Strip your sheets and wash them with a capful of those scent boosters, then make your bed in full. Clear all the crap off your nightstand. Put a vase of flowers your dresser. Organize your room. Fold all your clothes (and bag up what you don’t want), clean your mirror, your nightstand, and vacuum the floor. Light a beautiful candle.

Twenty – Allow yourself to follow your own curiosity.

Have you always wanted to know more about French History or the Elizabethan era? What about sex or long-forgotten etiquette? Maybe you want to know about people – like Julia Child or Amelia Earhart or Marie Curie. The Greeks believed that reading was healing for the soul and research has shown that reading will make you happier. Consider reading as “biblio-therapy” and make space for it in your life. Even if you aren’t a big fan of books, indulge in a favorite magazine or reread a favorite book. If you’re more visual consider checking out current comic books – they’re not just for kids anymore. Or, have you always wanted to know how to make sushi or croissants or a perfect soufflé? Maybe you want to learn the art of floral arrangement. Find a local class and sign up!

Twenty-One – The sound of silence.

Give yourself the gift of at least five minutes of silence a day. Did you know there’s a correlation between high blood pressure and chronic sources of noise? Perhaps the noise you are around isn’t chronic, but it highlights the power of noise our bodies and soul. Maybe it’s in the car on the way home or the first half hour after you get home. You need some quiet to feel nourished.

Twenty-Two – Begin the day by moving your body.

Stretch, first in the bed before you get up, and then when you rise reach for the sky as hard as you can, then trying to touch your toes. Begin the morning with a few jumping jacks or sit-ups. Take a walk around the block. Your body needs movement! Loving yourself by moving your body will always make you feel accomplished – and alive!

Twenty-Three – Take it to the page.

Buy yourself a beautiful journal or planner. Oh, and a pen that’s a delight to write with. Write down everything you do, including dinner dates, appointments, assignments, coffees, what you need to do that day. No detail is too small. Actively dream on the paper, making lists of wants and needs and dreams and desires. Writing by hand is a loving way to tend your life – and your brain. (And if you’re looking to begin some sort of diary, consider this “some line a day” five year memory book.)

Twenty-Four – Become the person you want to be best friends with.

Find humor in the frustrations.  Walk with straight posture, look people in the eye, and strike up a conversation with someone providing a service for you. Be kind, letting cards merge into your lane or paying for the coffee of the person behind you. Compliment folks on their cute clothes or glowing smile. When you act as if you are the kind of person you’d love to have in your life, you will discover how loving (and fun) a person you really are!

Twenty-Five – Deck the halls.

There’s something magical about loving up my home and transforming with my favorite holiday decorations.  Rather than making it feel like drudgery, choose to see decking the halls as an act of self-care.  Nourish your heart and soul by creating a holiday sanctuary. Drape pine boughs, hang stockings and adorn the tabletops with festive crimson and white. Knowing that the decor is temporary offers a welcomed change. Choose to see putting it away for the season as gift when the new year rolls around, an opportunity to begin the new year with a fresh new home.

The holidays are hectic for everyone, and even we go into them aware that we don’t have to run-run-run, most of us still get caught up in the rushing energy of everything around us. Remind yourself that being too busy can lead to feeling burned out. Planning, choosing, and acting wisely will let you have all the holiday joy you want, without the overwhelming hustle and bustle you don’t need.

The most loving gift you can give yourself this season is to ensure that you and your needs are a priority.

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By Debra Smouse: Writer, life coach, and Tarnished Southern Belle, Debra helps people fall in love with their life. An expert de-tangler, she believes in busting clutter as a path to greater clarity and that within every woman is vibrant, passionate, and sexy being just itching to make their inner sex kitten roar. A native Texan, she resides in Ohio with the Man of her Dreams.

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