LB Note: After two back-to-back weekends traveling (to LA and Austin for the blog and the holidays) I'm so grateful to have this post from my buddy Jen Smith at The Penny Hoarder. It perfectly blends practical money advice with emotional well being…. just in time for the often crazy stressful holiday season. Enjoy!
The holidays can bring sweet times with friends and family, delicious treats and neighborhoods dressed in lights. It’s my favorite time of year now, but I used to dread the holiday season. My small dysfunctional family — compared to friends’ picture-perfect family Christmas cards — always left me counting down the days to January.
You know I’m not alone: In a Healthline survey, over 60% of individuals admitted to finding the holidays at least a little stressful. And almost half of them stated finances as the most stressful part of the season.
I’ll never understand why we’ve turned a season of holidays centered around love and hope into a checklist of events to attend and gifts to buy. And while we can’t change the way the rest of the world does holidays, we can change how we interact with them.
Between online shopping, malls, DIY gifts and ingredients for yet another cookie exchange, it’s easy to go bananas and drain your bank account in the process. That’s why I’ve started incorporating self-care into my holiday routine.
Stress Isn’t Healthy for You — Or Your Wallet
A University of Southern California study found that stress significantly impacts our decision making. People under stress increase their focus on positive outcomes of decisions and discount negative ones — like, how a purchase would make them feel versus whether or not they could afford it.
That’s why I consider spending a little extra on myself as a means to spend less in the future. Minimizing stress will support your brain in making better decisions in the myriad of choices during the holiday season. But you also don’t have to spend a dime on self-care.
Six Ways to Incorporate Self-Care During the Holidays
1. Embrace the Season
November and December have their own distinct experiences. One of my regular guilty-pleasure purchases during this time of year is anything that emits light: I love candles, string lights, neon lights (and yes, I love lamp).
So when the holidays come around, I go running at night to see all the houses lit up and drive through nice neighborhoods by myself to embrace the holiday version of the things I enjoy.
What do you love about the season? Embrace the sights, smells and feels that only these months have to offer. And you don’t have to break the bank to do it.
2. Reject Expectations
I’ll often feel like I’m not hospitable enough or my house isn’t big enough to have people over. I once felt envious of a friend because I didn’t own an apron to bake pies in. Because everyone needs a holiday apron, right?
Develop your personal mantra right now that you’ll repeat to yourself when thoughts of “it needs to be perfect” creep up. Reject the expectations that social media place on holidays and you’ll free your energy to do much more productive things.
3. Make a Budget
This one might sound stressful at first glance, but I promise it’s worth it. There’s a simple satisfaction in knowing how much you have to spend and who you’re going to spend it on.
If finances are one of the most stressful aspects of the holidays, then knowing where you stand with them will release a lot of anxiety. It’s cathartic, even if you don’t like what you see. And doing this now will help you decide if you want to work more hours this month or if you’ll be giving out heartfelt cards in lieu of gifts.
4. Nourish Yourself
Cookies and mashed potatoes are great, but they’re not going to bring lasting joy into your life (no matter how much you want them to.) Feeding your body fresh food and exercising regularly will make you feel good from the inside out in a way that stress-eating comfort foods won’t.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t indulge at the office party — but be mindful of how much. There are plenty of opportunities to nosh throughout the holidays, so limiting yourself to one drink or two desserts doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on anything.
5. Forgive Others
Sometimes, spending holidays with family isn’t the most wonderful time of the year. I’ve seen people get nasty with their family members on Facebook, and I can only imagine what it’s like for them to sit across the table from one another at holiday dinner.
I believe forgiveness isn’t for the good of those we forgive, but that it’s most healing for the person doing the forgiving.
You might have every reason to be mad at someone, but it’s not worth the bitterness and burden you bear carrying it. Forgive who you need to forgive, and feel the freedom you deserve.
6. Say No
I have a serious case of FOMO. I want to be where the fun is, and there’s no shortage of it during the holidays.
But there came a point where I was so worn out by Christmas that I got shingles. After my illness, I realized saying “no” is the most underrated form of self-care. Being comfortable enough with myself to decline a social gathering has since saved my wallet and wellbeing.
There are plenty of free ways to practice self-care. But make sure to take care of yourself this season, even if it means spending a little extra. In the long run, it’ll save you more than just money.
Jen Smith is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites with more than 19 million monthly readers. In 2017, the Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder the 25th fastest-growing private company and the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the United States.