Self-Care During the Holidays
It’s important to remember that the holidays are complicated for everyone. This is an expensive time of year. It also quickly fills up with social engagements and added pressure. What’s more, the last couple of years have brought more tension to holiday gatherings. And, the all-around cheer and pressure to socialize can often remind us of sadness. At the very least, the holidays are busy. They’re filled with attending gatherings, organizing gifts, breaking un-healthy habits, or curbing indulgences. Even then, the issues freelancers face on an everyday basis can become even harder to manage during the holidays.
Holiday Self-Care for Freelancers
For one, professional freelancing is intrinsically tied to entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, the arts, and entertainment. Because of this, the holidays tend to be the busiest time of year for many professional freelancers. Maybe your business makes most of its sales in the lead-up to Christmas. Perhaps you support entrepreneurs who want to take it to the next level in the new quarter or year. Either way, while family and friends are enjoying paid time off, you are often working harder than you have all year. Sometimes, freelancers’ family members don’t always understand the choice to work independently. Even if they do, they still may want updates and might ask about your business or your career. All of this can lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed, even without any undue criticism.
The Solitude of Freelancing
Professional freelancing can be an inherently lonely and difficult way to work. There are, of course, longer working hours. But, there’s also the lack of structure and no opportunity to casually socialize. The winter months can be even harder to manage due to:
- Longer working hours.
- The days being darker and, somehow, seeming longer.
- Lack of opportunity to casually socialize.
- Lack/shift of structure.
This is especially true when many others are on vacation and the orders are piling up. Not to mention, professional freelancers are notoriously bad at scheduling time to rest.
How to Practice Self-Care
Increasingly, there’s been a push to counteract feeling guilty for resting. This helps to highlight the importance of taking time off work. More than ever, we know what to do to practice professional self-care. So, here are some steps you can take to practice self-care during the holiday.
Find a Safe Outlet
Regardless of your relationship with the holidays, they tend to bring up a lot of feelings and memories. Unfortunately, not all of them may be good. This could include stress about money. Maybe you’re feeling the expectations put upon you by family members or yourself. You might be missing a loved one. Or, maybe you’re struggling with a full schedule. The lead-up to the holidays can sometimes be as difficult as the day itself. Overall, it can certainly contribute to your overall state of wellbeing. This is even more true for freelancers, who on top of all this may have an ever-increasing workload. One way to handle the stress is to find someone to talk to, even many people. This could include a trusted friend, a coach, a therapist, a family member. In short, someone you trust who can provide you with a safe space.
Try to Make the Healthy Choice
The holidays can also be a difficult time when it comes to food and alcohol. Making a healthy choice doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding a feast or a drink. If you want that eggnog or that latke you should absolutely treat yourself! Still, just as with everyday working from home, if you don’t look after your health during this time, no one will. And, if you do, you’ll be ultimately happy you did. Just follow the basic rules of freelancing. That is, eat a vegetable, try to limit snacks and booze, get outside, and move your body. You can try to avoid situations you know might lead to excess. Instead, go towards ones that will make you feel good. This could mean going on hikes or walks with friends or family, or playing with the kids. You could dare a new year’s day swim, or make a favorite healthy dish. Best, you could avoid situations that could lead to drinking too much. And, try to take any opportunity to get outside or move your body. Do it in whichever way makes you feel good!
Know It’s Okay to Say No
Enforcing boundaries is a difficult task most days, and freelancers know this more than most. With unstructured freedom comes having to negotiate the expectations of every client or collaborator. You may even need to do this than once. This is a skill that comes especially in handy over the holidays. Still, it’s worth keeping in mind that freelancers may have to work on this so frequently, that come the holidays, they may be ready to just go with the flow. That is, it might be harder on them than on others. As difficult as it may be, it’s a practice worth focusing on. It’s important not only to know your limits but to be comfortable stating them. This could be with food or drink, safety, family, engagements, and even your own time.
Take Charge of Your Schedule, but Schedule Time for Rest
Just as with your regular freelancing life, time to rest is not provided for you. Instead, you have to include it into what may otherwise be a very busy schedule. You have to train yourself to relax – even when you still have much to do. In your everyday freelancing life this may take the form of including one or two rest days in your week. Or, it could mean not checking email before or after a certain time. Maybe your way is to make sure you don’t work while eating. These smaller habits are a great way to keep yourself running during the holidays, and a good model upon which to expand. As the holidays approach, you may find your time filling up more and more with friendly get-togethers and holiday dinners. But remember, your time is valuable. Just because you make your own schedule does not mean it is any more flexible than anyone else’s. All in all, your rest time should be used to recharge. But, it’s important to remember that rest doesn’t have to be productive. It can just be rest.
Gift Yourself a Care Package
You give everyone else gifts during the holiday…so why not yourself? And let’s be honest: don’t you deserve a present, too? Not only is this a nice practice in self-care, but it’s also an important strategy for everyday self-care for professional freelancers. Too much hard work without a reward can often lead to burnout. Make that reward a self-care (even holiday-themed) gift, and you’ve turned an energizing and motivating hack into a self-care tip for the holidays. This can be anything that makes you happy and that relaxes you. Some favorites are, of course, candles or wax melts. Anything else can include bath bombs, luxurious lotions, a good book. Or, it could have a gift card to a nice restaurant for take-out, a comfy pair of socks, and a drink or food you especially like. You can spread it out over the holidays. Or, for added effectiveness, you can literally gather all your presents into a basket. Specially made to take out when you especially need it.
Meditate or Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness and meditation can take different forms for different people. Practicing mindfulness and sitting in the moment may not come in the form of meditation – although meditation has many proven benefits. It can also be practiced in the form of meditative activity, like indoor or outdoor gardening, walking, crafting, playing music, some sports. This fulfills a different need than resting or practicing a hobby. And, with the added stress and unstructured lifestyle of professional freelancing, can help with the everyday practice of self-care. It is particularly appropriate for taking care of yourself during the holidays, too. This is because it can help foster gratitude in difficult times. Best of all, if you decide to pursue meditation, it can be done almost anywhere. The warmer, the more candles, and the nicer the music, the better.
Get Enough Sleep
This habit may be easier to practice over the holidays than during the rest of the year, especially for professional freelancers practicing self-care, but it’s a biggie. If you don’t get a full night’s sleep with a somewhat regular schedule, you won’t be productive the next day. Indeed, over time, it can even be dangerous. Those who are self-employed may have a tendency to skip out on sleep if it means finishing a project, catching up on emails, or even getting ahead – especially during an especially busy holiday season. Just remember that you’re not doing yourself or anyone else any favors by staying up late, especially in the long term. It’s already darker earlier, so why not use it to get some quality rest?
Hydrate and Moisturize
Drinking water is of course important – vital, even – the whole year round, but watching your water intake is during the holiday season can be especially helpful. This is particularly true if you drink alcohol! Another related habit to make sure you include in holiday self-care is moisturizing. Your skin needs hydration too, especially in these winter months.
Make a Budget and Stick to It
Always an important skill to have, keeping an effective budget can save a freelancer trying to practice self-care. Money may not buy happiness, after all, but it doesn’t hurt to not struggle. This is especially true over the holidays, when the pocketbook may be a bit thinner, engagements may cost more money, and you may have more expenses.
Do Things with Intention and Be Kind to Yourself
One of the best pieces of advice we can give for freelancer self-care and for not feeling guilty for resting is this: make rules but keep them flexible. The same rules apply to your schedule throughout the year and the goals for your career. It is important to stick to a routine, to enforce the boundaries you want to enforce, and to go into the holidays with intention. But, remember that the unexpected can and often does happen. If it does, you’ll be more successful, well-rested, and overall happier if you learn to roll with the punches and make do with what you have. In short, try to extend the same kindness and flexibility to yourself that you would to others.