Ah, the holiday season! Full of snow, joy, coziness, pine trees, cider simmering on the range and fluffy sweaters. Well, in an ideal world maybe. For me, the holidays are also synonymous with a feeling of burn-out. As a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) the most wonderful time of the year is also my most stressed time of year. I don’t consider myself an anxious person by any means (I think all of my friends and family would describe me as “chill” with a sprinkle of “sunshine-y”). And there’s plenty that I love about the holidays, to be sure! But for me the dwindling sunlight combined with all of the social pressures and my busiest blogging season leaves me feeling fatigued by January 1.
If you find yourself overwhelmed, edgy and frantic during the normal whirr of the Winter holidays you’re certainly not alone. Depending on the degree of your experience, it’s possible that you fall on the sensitive spectrum. Highly Sensitive People (HSP) are characterized by sensitivity to sensory stimuli, deeper cognitive processing and high emotional reactivity. HSP are often extra sensitive to all manner of sensory stimuli: color, light, texture, taste, scent, hot/cold, sound, social interaction, sleep disturbance, inflammatory foods and violent entertainment. Around 20-30% of the population is considered Highly Sensitive. Which means being a HSP is normal, although less common. While the traits attributed to HSP can be a gift, they can also lead to feelings of being easily overwhelmed, stressed, anxious or otherwise unwell. You can learn more about the HSP designation here. And check out my prequel to this post, 43 Self Care Practices for the Highly Sensitive Person.
Now, last I checked the holidays are a glitter-bomb of triggers for sensitive folks like myself.
There’s the whirr of travel and holiday events; the consumerist take-over of our culture combined with the pressure to find perfect gifts; the constant interaction with family (which is not fun for everyone); the bright holiday lights and enormous sparkling trees crowded with ornaments; and the inevitable strain of absorbing too much refined sugar, caffeine and alcohol.
Self-care is floated around a lot lately as a sort of antidote to the stresses of modern life. But, as Brianna Wiest of Thought Catalog says: “self-care is not all salt baths and chocolate cake.”
Self care is choosing to thrive, not just survive. It’s choosing to reject the things that hurt us in lieu of things that support us — whether our lives are mildly or extremely stressful, whether we’re sort of sensitive or highly sensitive.
The self-care practices I’ve outlined today are great for everyone… regardless of if you identify with being a HSP.
I’ve broken up my tips into part 1 and part 2 because there are truly too many to include in one post. This post is focused on Food, Yoga/Body-care and Sleep. Part 2 will include Mental Health, Aesthetics/Environment and Travel.
Cheers to a happier, healthier, more vibrant holiday season!