Self Care During The Holidays

Candles - self care during the holidays

The holidays are supposed to be joyful, right?!? And they can be – or they can be total chaos.

Overachievers and perfectionists (which I KNOW many of you identify with!) have a special challenge during the holidays – taking perfectionism and applying it to holiday cheer.

You have to find the best gift for everyone, get out your glue gun to create the most perfect ugly Christmas sweater, decorate your house and tree and cookies to look like a Pinterest board, and put that stupid Elf On A Shelf in the most creative place each day (I’m not a parent, so maybe I shouldn’t comment on this, but I do not get Elf On A Shelf! It seems like just one more thing on the to-do list during an already busy time.)

It’s time to stop. You are not responsible for creating the perfect holiday.

But even if you know that logically, it can still be hard. And this is a busy time of year for most people even if they aren’t overachieving at holiday making.

Here are my top 3 tips for self-care during the holidays:

  • Say no. I’ve written about saying no many times. It’s because most of us need to do it WAY more. The holidays are no exception. You get to say no to a party invite or a cookie exchange or even a volunteer event. Your no is not a judgment on the person extending the invite or your relationship or the worthiness of the activity – it’s just a no.
  • Take 5 minutes of your day just for yourself (or more if that works for you!): December is actually a slow time of the year for me in my business, which means it’s a good time of year to start new habits. Before diving into work each morning, I’m spending a few minutes journaling. I light a candle and write. It’s the perfect start to the day. You can take a bath, sit quietly with your cup of coffee, or just breathe for a few minutes.
  • Choose present over perfect: I’m stealing this from a book title (one I haven’t actually read but had to buy because of the title and is now sitting on my shelf). You will be more joyful this holiday season if you are present. Throw perfection out the window. Enjoy right now. Love the people you’re with. Doing this will create the moments you wanted in the first place.

Three Steps to Getting Along With Your Family This Holiday

Notice, Ask, Listen

It’s that time of year. Cars are packed to go over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house, airplanes travel to bring people home for a merry little Christmas, and we attend party after party in hopes of having the most wonderful time of the year.

Are you ready to enjoy it all?

Or are your boxing gloves out, ready to spar over Trump, #metoo, the tax bill, and the bleeding heart liberals/radical evangelicals/Democrats/Republicans that are ruining this country? Have you already constructed an argument to defend your career choice? Are you preparing biting remarks to counter questions about why you don’t have any children?

What if you took a different approach?

Shifted your mindset from judgment to learning?

Listened to understand instead of looking for holes in an argument?

Here are three steps to make this shift. I’m not going to say they’re easy. Your patience and resolve will be tested. But I’m certain they will help you know your family better and have a lower-stress holiday!


When you visit family and friends, pause and look at them. Really look at them. What is different from the last time you met? What emotions do you see in their face? Stop and notice “and this person you thought you knew will feel different and that person will respond to you differently,” mindfulness researcher Ellen Langer said on a recent OnBeing podcast. “And this happens instantly.”

Instant change simply by taking the time to notice? That’s something worth trying!


In September I spent two weeks in Croatia with three friends that I had collectively known for over 30 years. Instead of the usual chitchat during dinner, we decided to ask thought-provoking questions. Here is just a sample of our discussions:

  • What change could you make right now that would have an immediate impact on your life?
  • Is everyone capable of being a leader?
  • What three words would you use to describe the human race?
  • If you had to spend $10,000, what would you spend it on?

These questions led to more questions, personal stories and reflections. There was laughter, tears – and some disagreement! But I learned more about my friends in those two weeks than I had in the previous decades I had known them.

Not sure where to start? Get curious. What do you want to know about your family? The story of how your grandparents met? What it was like to for your aunt to live during the cultural tumult of the 1960s and how that compares to today? What your cousin loves about his job? Ask, and then….


Listening is not simply being quiet. It isn’t keeping your mouth shut while you internally formulate a rebuttal. It isn’t waiting for your turn to speak.

Listening is shifting the focus away from the thoughts running through your head and to the other person. Listen to their words, their tone, and their body language. Listen to understand their experience and perspective. Use your energy to purposefully give them your full attention.

There will be times when your emotions get the better of you. When your aunt asks if you’re ever going to get married at the same time the dog jumps on the table and starts eating the meat and your grandfather blames it on Obama. This will happen.

Before reacting, take a deep breath. This single moment is often enough to regroup and purposefully decide what to do next. Then:

  • Consciously switch back to noticing.
  • Instead of interrupting with your own point of view, ask, “How did you come that conclusion?”
  • Seek understanding by actively listening.

Notice, ask, listen, repeat and see what happens.

Happy holidays!

Further resources:

  • Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown – A phenomenal book on belonging and rebuilding our communities through listening, authenticity, and courage.
  • Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams – It has the appearance of a business book, but the content on shifting from judgment to learning and asking questions to seek understanding applies to every part of life.


Heather Whelpley is a speaker and coach that works with women to combat self-doubt, own their brilliance, and step into the career and life they desire. See her home page or join Heather’s mailing list to learn more.