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Practice Self-Kindness During The Holidays To Decrease Your Stress

Give yourself permission to take a break.
That's right, read that book!
Hero Images via Getty Images
That's right, read that book!

Welcome to HuffPost Canada’s (almost) daily guide to helping you pick up an easy, everyday ritual that can make your life a bit better, in a small but significant way.

Canadians are stressed out, anxious, and are feeling disconnected from each other. Every Monday through Friday, we’ll share a tiny tip to help you feel good. We’ve got your back.

Today’s habit: Be kind to yourself.

For whenever you’re feeling: Overwhelmed by the holidays or by life in general.

What it is: You’re probably exhausted right now, not just because of the ongoing pandemic but because the holidays are right around the corner.

This, reader, is where we tell you to be kind to yourself.

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How it can help: Trust me, I know it’s easy to give in to negative self-talk. The holidays, although they can be fun, put a lot of stress on us to be perfect and in a constantly festive mood. This is impossible and puts a lot of pressure on us, which negatively affects our mental health.

Harsh self-criticism activates the sympathetic nervous system — fight or flight — and elevates stress hormones such as cortisol in our bloodstream,” said Emma Seppala, PhD, science director the Stanford University Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, via The Healthy.

Practising self-compassion can help stave off the instinct for negative self-talk, and studies have shown that using kindness techniques can reverse the trend of criticism and cortisol.

Every day, I take a mental time-out and tell myself I’m doing a great job, whether it be at work, at home, as a mother, as a friend, or as a partner.

“When you practice self-compassion, you reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which takes away the state of stress,” said Deborah Serani, PsyD, author of Living with Depression and a psychology professor at Adelphi University, via The Healthy. “The more you stay with positive thoughts, the more dopamine surges, which floods your body with feel-good hormones.”

Practising positive self-talk will not only reduce anxiety and make you feel more satisfied, research has also linked it to better heart health and illness prevention.

How to get started: It’s a lot easier to criticize yourself than to say something kind (messed up, right?), which is why it takes a lot of practice. So, if you find yourself saying something like, “I forgot to write a Christmas card to my mother in law, I’m such an idiot,” take a breath and replace that thought with, “I have a lot going on so it’s only natural I forget to do some things and that’s OK — this could have happened to anyone.”

I have also recently discovered affirmation cards — specifically, this cute deck called “Affirmators! 50 Affirmation Cards to Help You Help Yourself — Without the Self-Helpy-Ness!” These cards share inspiring words you can say to yourself without feeling cheesy about it. I take out one card a day, repeat the mantra, and even after a week of doing so I find that I’m thinking a bit more positively about myself.

Finally, if you’re overwhelmed by all the stuff you have to do during the holidays, start saying “no” more often. It can be hard at first, but sometimes it’s so much better to chill out than have to attend another potluck.

Where you can do it: It’s as simple as doing it in your head, but sometimes self-kindness makes more of an impact if you say the words out loud. If that’s the case, find a space where you’re alone — maybe a bathroom, your bedroom, or anywhere you feel comfortable and safe.

How it makes us feel: The changes don’t happen right away, but you should start feeling a bit more wonderful (because you are an incredible person) the more you do it.

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And that’s your habit of the day.

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