6 Ways to Practice Good Self-care This Holiday Season

Posted by: Molly Herber on Dec 18, 2015

It’s the holiday season, so it’s a stressful time: everyone is in a rush with presents to buy and projects to finish before the new year.

At NOLS, one of the important skills we teach in the backcountry is self-care. Self-care includes practical actions, like putting on a jacket when you’re cold, but it also includes speaking up to your group when you’re tired or asking to stop when you feel a blister forming.

Self-care is just as important to practice at home as it is in the backcountry. Here are a few ways you can practice good self-care and survive this stressful time of year!

Eat well Eating Well

Photo by Nicholas Byrne.

These first few tips are oriented towards your physical well-being, because if you don't take care of your basic needs, then you certainly aren’t going to be able to function at a higher level!

Keeping your body appropriately fueled with food will help you maintain energy throughout the day. This doesn’t mean avoiding holiday sweets altogether (because that would be impossible; instead, it means making sure that you eat a square meal as you’re rushing around completing tasks so that you’re running on something besides vending machine food.

Sleep enough 

Get some sleep!

From Giphy.

There are a million things to do, and they can all wait until you’ve had a full night’s rest. Being sleep-deprived means you’re more likely to be grouchy with your co-workers or make small mistakes on your projects. If you have to be at work early, try forgoing that last television episode or that late-afternoon cup of coffee to try and get to sleep sooner. Or, dare we say it, hit the snooze button a few times in the morning!

Exercise Finding Balance in Patagonia

Photo courtesy of Alex Chang - Cornell Leadership Expedition.

Exercise is a great way to help your body produce endorphins and reduce stress. It gives you something else to focus on besides the endless items on your "to do" list.

Ask for help

Asking for Help

Photo by Brooks Eaton.

Despite what you may believe, you cannot do everything! And that is just fine. Good leaders know how to share tasks when they’re overwhelmed, or simply to create more fun in something that would be boring to do alone.

Take breaks

Taking a Break

Photo by Brad Christensen.

Give your mind and body a rest. Taking a break and doing an activity that’s totally unrelated to your tasks is a great way to assess whether what you’re being busy about is actually helpful, and will help you come back to your tasks with a fresh perspective. This can look like reading a book, going for a walk, or simply sitting and watching snow fall. Sometimes, doing nothing is the best thing for you to do.

Do something just for yourself

Taking your time

Photo by Ben Lester.

At the holidays, it’s easy to get caught up in what everyone else is asking you to do—wrap presents, go to a holiday party, finish a project before the New Year … you get it. Doing something just for yourself—no multi-tasking!— will get your attention back onto you. You’ll have the space to figure out what your needs are in the moment, whether you need a stress-relieving hike in the woods or an extra hour of sleep. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. It allows you to show up at your meetings, family events, and the breakfast table as your very best self.

Try these tips and see how you like them—you may be surprised at how good it feels to take a little time for you!

Take a look at NOLS' custom leadership trainings to see how to bring leadership skills like this to your team or workplace.

Learn more about leadership in the backcountry here.


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Molly is a NOLS instructor and writer. She loves the smell of her backpack and does her best writing before 7:00 am. When she's not scouting the next post for the NOLS Blog, she's running and climbing on rocks in Wyoming. Follow her on Instagram @mgherber