The holiday season is in full swing and for most of us, it’s one of the busiest times of the year. The hustle and bustle are all around us as we shop till we drop to find the perfect gifts for the ones we love.

But in all of your efforts to get the perfect gift for others, have you considered giving the gift of self-care to yourself? After all, aren’t you included on the list of those you love? If you’re not—you should be.

Self-care is not selfish—it’s self-love. And in a world where love is sometimes hard to find, it’s important that you spread some of your own love to yourself, especially during the holidays.

The holiday season is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Many of us spend our days giving all that we have to others. Whether it’s giving the perfect gift, helping at a local food pantry, or volunteering at your favorite charity. But in all your giving, it’s important to also give back to yourself.

The time you set aside for yourself will help you to reset, rebalance, revitalize, and provide the energy you need to help you in all your other areas of giving. Self-care should really be the cornerstone of everything else that you do because it is in the giving to yourself that you have a greater capacity to give to others.

Here are three ways you can give back to yourself this holiday season—it all has to do with time.

Schedule time for yourself.

For most of us, our schedule is a big deal. It’s what we live by. And if it’s not on the schedule, it doesn’t get done, especially for me as a busy mom. I’m sure some of you can relate. That’s why it’s important to schedule time for yourself when you’re scheduling everything else. Make an appointment with yourself and don’t cancel it. Make that time a priority. Even if you only schedule ten minutes a day, it will make a difference to your overall mental health. Call it a mental health break if it helps you keep the appointment. Whatever it takes, make sure that you make it happen.

There are days where I don’t even feel like I have even ten minutes to spare. But I still make it a priority to find ten minutes somewhere in my day where I can focus squarely on my own self-care. Sometimes I spend those ten minutes doing something ridiculous, like playing Candy Crush. Guilty pleasures in ten-minute increments are sometimes exactly what you need to let go of the pressures of the day.

Other times, it’s taking a walk with my husband. And still, other times it’s going into my room, closing the door, and just listening to some music that inspires me. Sometimes we have to take pleasure in the simple things in life to allow those stressful thoughts to fade away.

Make your personal time meaningful.

Stress comes in all varieties and during the holidays, that stress can be heightened. When scheduling time for yourself, make that time meaningful by doing something that will help you to let go of the stress that you’re holding onto. Sure, the shopping needs to get done and those Christmas or Hanukkah cookies aren’t going to bake themselves, but give yourself permission to let go of the stresses you feel for those ten minutes and really focus on loving yourself for all the things you’ve already accomplished.

It’s easy for us to point out all the things we’re doing wrong, but when you take a few moments to mentally point out all the things you’ve done right, your negative, stressful energy shifts to one of positivity and gratitude. Many times we need to let go of the stress so we can remind ourselves who we are and what is most important in our life.

You can make the time meaningful by expressing gratitude to yourself, reading through an affirmation, or breathing deeply and relieving the holiday stress through your exhale. You can read a good book, go to the gym, or do whatever it is that brings you joy and relieves stress. You’ll be surprised at how valuable these moments become when you give yourself the support you need to continue giving of yourself to others.  

Use the time to connect with those you love.

Family is everything to me. But sometimes in the chaos of the day, I forget to really enjoy the moments I have with my family. For example, at Thanksgiving, I became very overwhelmed and I said to my daughter, “I don’t think we’re going to get it all done.” The stress and pressure I was feeling to make everything perfect were overshadowing the entire purpose of why we celebrate Thanksgiving in the first place. It’s all about family. In my meltdown, my daughter looked at me and smiled, “Mom, we’ve got this!” she said. “You’re not in this alone. We’re all here to help and we’re going to get it done in time.”

Having my daughter there to calm my own anxieties was exactly what I needed to bring my mind back into focus. I stopped stressing about perfection and just enjoyed cooking with my children. I let go of the expectations I had put on myself and found joy in the moments I had to connect with those I love most.

We need to stop focusing on making everything perfect and instead focus on making it enjoyable. If the dinner was late, oh well! That’s life. But the moments of that day where I was connecting with my children and husband are the moments I will carry with me long after the holidays are over. Find time for human connection and enjoy your time with those you love. There will always be something you could be doing but don’t let the stress or thoughts of all those things that you need to do rob you of the joy that comes from just being present with those you love. This is especially true for the holidays.

Self-care is an important choice to make.

While it’s true that the holidays can be stressful, it’s actually a choice that we make. If we take a step back and look at the amazing experience that the holidays provide instead of focusing on the details that cause us to stress, we will have a much more enjoyable holiday season.

So my simple advice to help anyone get through the holidays is to take time for yourself. Schedule it in and make it happen.

The greatest gift you can give anyone this holiday season is giving self-care to you. It’s the gift that keeps on giving because, with that simple gift, you give yourself the capacity to keep on giving to everyone else.

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