Self-Care in the Holiday Season

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog

The hustle and bustle of the holidays can cause us to spread ourselves even thinner than usual in an attempt to do it all—often at the expense of our own comfort and joy. What if, instead of bending over backward to please other people, we created some space for ourselves? During this season of giving, don’t forget to reflect some of the love and light you’re beaming back onto someone very important: you.

— Tieraona Low Dog, M.D.

The hustle and bustle of the holidays can cause us to spread ourselves even thinner than usual in an attempt to do it all—often at the expense of our own comfort and joy. What if, instead of bending over backward to please other people, we created some space for ourselves? Self-care is always important, but at this time of year, it should be a priority. Whether it’s slipping into a hot bath after a long day of shopping or snuggling up with a cup of cocoa and a movie, you deserve the precious gift of rest. Here are some of my favorite ways to practice self-care during the holiday season. 

 

Make time for a massage

Nothing eases tired, aching muscles like a massage and the healing benefits of this ancient therapy extend far beyond the physical. According to a review of more than a dozen studies conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, massage affects the body’s biochemistry in a manner that helps ease anxiety and depression. Researchers measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol in roughly 500 men, women, and children with stress or depression before and immediately after receiving a massage. They found that not only did massage therapy lower cortisol by up to 53 percent, it also improved participants’ serotonin and dopamine levels. With less stress hormone and more feel-good neurotransmitters, your body is better able to fight feelings of anxiety and sadness. This holiday season, what better gift to give yourself than one that soothes both body and spirit? 

 

Savor herbal tea

Drinking herbal teas can be a wonderfully soothing ritual—calming, restoring, and even meditative. I like to sit in my favorite reading chair, situated with a good view of the outdoors, and inhale the aroma and steam as a gentle beginning before sipping. I choose my tea based on the tides of my mood, my energy level, and what my body is telling me that day. I love these soothing herbal teas for taking the edge off after a stressful day.

Chamomile

Chamomile is one of my favorite teas for sleeplessness and tension.

Lemon balm

This delightful member of the mint family soothes and calms the nerves, helping to ease anxiety. 

 Prefer store-bought tea bags? Give one of these fabulous products a try.

Cup of Calm by Traditional Medicinals

If you like floral, apple, and mint notes in your tea, give Cup of Calm a try. It’s a blend made from a just-right mix of lavender, chamomile, passion flower, rosemary, and catnip. These plants are all renowned for soothing the senses and bringing tranquility to the nervous system.

Kava Stress Relief by Yogi 

Kava is used to calm the body, ease muscle tension, and promote relaxation. Each cup of Kava Stress Relief tea provides 78 mg of kava root extract—I can feel my shoulders relax and tensions ebb after just one sip of this highly aromatic, tasty blend.

No matter which tea you prefer, it’s important to give yourself time to savor it. Slowly sip and taste the flavors in your mouth, feel the warmth on your fingers, open your eyes to what’s around you, and breathe in the aromatic steam. Self-care in a cup!

 

Just breathe

Researchers have shown that by altering the rhythm of our breath, we can have a powerful effect on our emotions. It’s one of the best tools we have to counteract the effects of stress. I personally really like to use the “4‑7‑8 breath” in my own life. It’s a straightforward breathing exercise that can be done whenever you’re feeling stressed. It will help calm and center you, and you’ll feel much better prepared to enter back into your world when you’re finished. It’s perfect for those moments when you start to feel overwhelmed by holiday chaos. Here’s how to do it. (To see a video demonstration, click here (https://drlowdog.com/4-7-8-breath-meditation-exercise/?fbclid=IwAR1mif4Tr8i0D7yis9HA9sFCsN6Od1UJta6OIgSh5WP0GydHNINDasnl_s8). 

Sit comfortably in a chair, feet on the floor, hands on your knees. Sometimes it can be useful to put your hands on your belly because you want to breathe deeply into the belly when you inhale and bring the tummy back in towards your spine when you exhale.

Inhale for the count of four, hold for the count of seven, and breathe out for the count of eight. Repeat four times.

 

Relax in the tub

Is there a better way to unwind than a warm bath? After running around checking items off your lengthy holiday to-do list, slipping into the tub allows you to literally wash away the day. It’s also an excellent pre-bedtime relaxation technique for those who can’t seem to turn off their busy brains at night no matter how exhausted they are. I like to rub Calendula Flower Oil onto my still-damp skin to complete the soothing bath experience. Here’s my recipe. Packaged in a pretty glass bottle and labeled, this bath oil also makes a thoughtful gift for that friend who could use a nudge in the direction of self-care.

 

Calendula Flower Oil

• Calendula flowers, dried 

• Olive, grapeseed, or sunflower seed oil (carrier oil)

Fill a jar 2/3 full of calendula flowers and cover with carrier oil of your choice. Seal jar and set on counter in warm place, let steep for 2-4 week, shaking daily. Strain, bottle, and label. 

How to use: Massage a thin layer of oil into skin after bathing. Store bottle in a cool, dark place. 

 

During this season of giving, don’t forget to reflect some of the love and light you’re beaming back onto someone very important: you.