Christmas self-care: top survival tips for moms

Woman looking directly into camera sitting on a couch with mug in her hand with a Christmas tree in the background

The holidays are often a joyful yet stressful time.

And amidst all the hustle and bustle, self-care can easily fall to the wayside.

It’s difficult to protect our wellbeing during hectic times. And the pressure to create a “perfect” Christmas can make it hard, if not impossible, to show up for ourselves and others.

Despite these challenges, a joyous holiday is within reach.

Read below for my top 5 Christmas self-care tips, designed to improve your wellbeing over the holiday season and beyond.

1. Embrace reasonable expectations

It’s easy to get caught up with a perfect vision of Christmas.

This is especially true in this age of social media where images of beautifully decorated homes, screenshot-worthy holiday cookies, and joyous families take over our Pinterest and Instagram feeds.

But this curated content just isn’t a fair reflection of reality—at least for most of us.

Decorating trends come and go, cookies get burnt, and it’s hard to be at our emotional best—kids and adults alike—when demands are high and reserves low.

You fellow mamas know what I mean!

The truth is, life never goes perfectly at Christmas or—for that matter—at any time of the year.

By dropping unreasonable expectations, we give ourselves permission to truly enjoy the Christmas season, mishaps and all.

Embracing good enough also allows us to be more present rather than consumed by capturing and curating every moment perfectly.

And letting go of impossible expectations helps us show up for the people we love. Like giving hugs rather than reprimands to overtired tantruming toddlers and offering kind words rather than criticism to well-intentioned partners who come home with extra wrapping paper instead of the requested tape.  

So, repeat after me: “Christmas is not going to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be!”

And with this helpful mindset in place—get ready for an imperfectly perfect holiday season—one you can truly cherish.

Christmas self-care action step:

It’s easy to get lost in the trap of trying to make the holidays perfect. Take some time to consider what good enough looks like this Christmas season for you and your family. Then take steps to embrace this modified vision.

For example, give yourself permission to simplify Christmas such as scaled back decorations, baking, and crafting. Aim for 80% rather than 100% effort. Putting your all into holiday tasks means less time and energy for other things such as quality time with loved ones.

Close up of hands making gingerbread cookies
Photo by NoSystem images

2. Let go of mom guilt

As moms, we tend to take on a lot—too much—in fact.

This is especially true when it comes to the holidays.

It’s a time of year when the “shoulds” take over. Such as: I should attend all the Christmas activities, I should host friend gatherings, and I should find meaningful ways to contribute to my community.

But no one can do it all!

We’ve got to give ourselves permission to be fully human. And this includes accepting that other people’s experiences and feelings are not under our control.

Relinquishing this false sense of responsibility helps us to show up for others more openly—with our defences down and hearts open.

Because the truth is, no amount of holiday preparation can guarantee happiness for ourselves or others.

In fact, given all the Christmas excitement and overwhelm, flaring tempers and emotional meltdowns are pretty much an assured thing (at least some of the time) regardless of what we do.

The joys of Christmas cannot be determined by one person—they really can’t. Rather, it’s a shared responsibility to make the holidays merry and bright.

So, let go of the holiday guilt, mama! And try taking on less this Christmas.

Christmas self-care action step:

Do you worry about disappointing others at Christmas? Do you take on the role of family peacekeeper over the holidays?

Take a step towards your Christmas self-care by reminding yourself that you can’t control other people’s feelings or actions. And that a joyful holiday season requires all family members to chip in.

Sad looking little girl wearing Christmas hat and sitting at kitchen counter near hot chocolate
Photo by OKrasyuk

3. Make an absolute yes and an absolute no list

Before the holidays get under way, take some time to consider your top priorities.

And don’t be afraid to be selfish! As moms, we can easily find ourselves swayed by perceived expectations. So, keep an eye out for external noise as you pinpoint what matters most to you this holiday season.

What would your ideal Christmas season look like? Which traditions, events, and other holiday-related activities are you most looking forward to? And which ones can you do without this year?

Take some time to get these thoughts onto paper. Then use what you’ve written to come up with an absolute yes and an absolute no list.

These lists will guide your Christmas activities—the events and tasks you’ll readily commit to versus the ones you’ll definitely skip.

For example, as I write this post, I’m 8 months pregnant and exhausted! Although I feel pressure to host our annual friend cookie party, I’m honestly not up for it.

So, I’m adding big hosting events to my absolute no list. However, having family over for Christmas day supper is a favourite tradition—and one where everyone pitches in. So, a small family gathering will be on my absolute yes list.

Identifying your absolute yeses and absolute noes is an important form of Christmas self-care. It allows you to direct your finite time and energy to what you value most.

Christmas self-care action step:

Take a step towards your Christmas self-care by letting your top priorities—rather than outside expectations—guide your holiday commitments.

Make an absolute yes and an absolute no list. And keep these lists handy to help guide your decision-making over the holiday period.

Woman's hand writing in a spiral notebook on a white surface decorated with evergreen boughs, little decorative silver stars and a simply wrapped gift
Photo by Madina Asileva

4. Delegate to others

The holidays come with a long list of tasks. This includes decorating, gift buying, cooking, baking, hosting, and. the list goes on.

That’s a lot to take on! Especially if we’re in charge of most—if not all—of these tasks.

But rather than doing it all on your own, enlist some help! And I mean more than the resident Elf on the Shelf to help reign in your children’s behaviour.

If you don’t have a family chore system in place, now is a great time to establish one. This includes divvying up tasks that don’t magically disappear during the holidays (e.g., regular house cleaning, laundry, meal-prep, etc.)

Make a clear list of household member’s responsibilities and schedule regular family meetings to check-in on everyone’s progress.

Also, consider outsourcing regular and holiday-related tasks.

For example, can you hire someone to do a deep clean before a planned party? String up outside decorations? Purchase cookies for the neighbourhood cookie exchange party rather than bake them yourself?

No one person can do it all, mama. Don’t let the weight of Christmas planning and other tasks fall squarely on your shoulders.

Christmas self-care action step:

Fight the tendency to take on more than your fair share over the holidays.

How can you enlist your family’s help to lighten your load this holiday season? Would outsourcing any Christmas-related tasks help?

Mom getting help from her kids to decorate Christmas tree
Photo by Pollyana Ventura

5. Invest in your Christmas self-care

Our need for self-care doesn’t suddenly evaporate during the holidays.

In fact, when life gets busier and more stressful, we need to invest more rather than less energy into our wellbeing.

The problem is, self-care can be elusive pursuit even at the best of times—nevermind during the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

Further complicating matters, the holidays herald in a landslide of temptations and stressors that easily derail healthy habits. This includes an ample supply of tasty delights, packed agendas, and late nights that push aside regular healthy meals, time for exercise, and good rest.

While there’s no single way to get around this—setting realistic expectations, letting go of mom guilt, sorting out holiday priorities, and delegating tasks—are great places to start. These steps will free up time and energy for Christmas self-care.

It’s also helpful to write down what self-care acts you’d like to maintain over the holidays. Then make sure you schedule these activities as non-negotiables into the weeks ahead.

Also, get the help of family to ensure you can stick to this self-care calendar and broader Christmas self-care goals..

All household members can benefit from making their wellbeing a priority throughout the year, including during the holiday season. So, work together to help ensure you all take good care of yourself this Christmas.

Christmas self-care action step:

Do you find your self-care slipping over the holidays? That you get sidetracked from healthy habits?

What steps can you take to improve your self-care this Christmas? Consider coming up with a list of simple acts that promote your wellbeing.

Schedule these activities into your days and get your family’s help. It’s easer to meet self-care goals with the support of others.

Woman lies with feet outstretched with a wooden tray containing hot cocoa, a snack and book lying beside her. Idea of Christmas self-care.
Photo by Leoba

Add some Christmas self-care to your holidays

Investing in Christmas self-care isn’t easy.

The holidays are a busy time of the year. And all the extra tasks and activities can easily push our wellbeing to the back burner.

We can also find ourselves chasing a “perfect” version of Christmas—one that comes hand-in-hand with unrealistic expectations.

This heavy burden is a lot for any one person to shoulder and doesn’t make for a joyous season for us, as moms, or the people we love most.

So, be kind to yourself this holiday season! Try to embrace a good enough job. Let your priorities determine what you say yes and no to. Share the holiday load. And make time for Christmas self-care.

You’ll be so happy you did.

I’d love to hear from you!

What things get in the way of your Christmas self-care? Do any of the above self-care suggestions resonate?

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