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Christmas Self-Care Ideas | Faith and Mental Health

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Last Christmas, the Sanctuary team announced some of our favorite ways of taking care of our own self-care amidst a time of sadness and loss. This Christmas may look and feel different compared to last year as many of us make plans to physically gather with loved ones. At the same time, feelings of fear, isolation and loneliness persist, particularly given the ongoing uncertainties surrounding the discovery of new COVID-19 variants and ever-changing travel restrictions.

By considering these aspects of our everyday reality, in 2021 we offer a fresh take on our favorite forms of self-care. A common thread that connects all of our diverse contributions this year is that they have a particular focus on embodiment. From baking and decorating to pottery and skiing, these practices may inspire ideas for self-care in your life and serve as a gentle invitation to stop, slow down, rest, and reflect this holiday season.

From all of us at Sanctuary: Thank you for traveling with us over the past year. Receive this Irish Christmas Blessing[1] with our love and gratitude:

The light of the poinsettia for you
The warmth of home and hearth for you
The applause and goodwill of friends for you
The hope of a childlike heart for you
The joy of a thousand angels for you
The love of the Son and God’s peace be upon you.

grounding exercises

Christmas self care ideas

grounding exercises that engage the five senses can counteract the stress response in our bodies and help us experience the present with fresh joy and gratitude. With that in mind, I’ve intentionally filled my home with wonderful smells this holiday season. My Christmas tree is decked out with gingerbread ornaments, there are new candles on my desk and bookshelf, and I’ve even brought back a family tradition of cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange peels simmering on the stove. When I stop in the middle of the day and take deep breaths, the different scents remind me that the present moment is good and that God is present here too.

– Jane

To play

One self-care practice I choose to draw on is play. Whether it’s a game, a sporting activity, a Lego set, or a craft event with my kids, making time to play is always a beneficial act for my well-being. Match practice also reminds me that I’m human and that I’m made for more than just productivity and achievement.

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– Dan

To be present

During the busy holiday season, my self-care is often relational. My cup is filled with eggnog and some good family time as we sit around the warmth of the fireplace, often with a charcuterie board in the middle. It may be a Eucharistic practice, but when we laugh, cry, or simply connect with one another, we are negotiating the act of presence.

This advent was especially meaningful as I carry a child in my own womb. Whenever we meet, my three older children usually place their hands on my stomach, hoping to feel a kick or movement of life within me. It causes me to perceive the life in each of us. I see this as a practice of self-care, reminding me to slow down and seek and be present and grateful for the many spaces and avenues that life is growing in our midst.

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– Bryana
At Sanctuary, we recognize that pregnancy can be a painful subject for some. If you have been affected by a miscarriage, stillbirth, child loss, or other form of loss related to pregnancy, we see you and recognize that these experiences can have a profound impact on your mental health and well-being. We invite you to read a blog post by our program director, Kate Dewhurst: i carry your heart with me

Walks with my dog

My current self-care routine consists of walking our foster dog, Jack. He’s quite old and has short legs so we don’t get very far, but in the thick British winter, getting outside a few times a day, being in nature and meeting other people for walks recharges my batteries for everything day could last.

– Karl

To learn something new

That fall, I realized I needed to do something different and more conscious to take care of my mental health. I love learning new things and I wanted to do something where it doesn’t matter if I’m good at it or not. I knew I needed something away from my house and away from screens, so I signed up for a pottery class where I learned about wheel tossing. Going to class once a week, doing something very different from the rest of my life and creating something with my hands has been so good for me. You could also try learning something new from YouTube, a book, a friend, or a mentor!

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– Leslie

mountain biking

For me, there is no better form of self-care than getting on my mountain bike in any mood. I love pedaling up the mountain and listening to the latest album from my favorite bands, a new podcast, or the sounds of nature and connecting with my mind before rushing back down some awesome North Shore trails.

– Adam
Hear Sanctuary, a song about brokenness and the healing power of grace, from our Ambassador, John Swinton

Bake

Baking family recipes reminds me of where I come from and who I belong to, which gives me perspective in the midst of stressful and complicated days. As a three year old, one of my fondest memories is baking with my Nana in her red kitchen. This is her Scottish mother’s shortbread recipe. Baking feels a bit like prayer… and maybe even self-care.

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Whipped shortbread
Nana Jonson

1 cup of butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1½ cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add flour and cornstarch while stirring. Beat until light (using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer if you have one). Drop teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 325° for 12-14 minutes. Cool. Split.

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– Kate

operation

One activity that I enjoy and benefit from both mentally and physically is running. Whether I’m trudging on the sidewalk or a forest trail, running is a great way to unwind. I often use the time to reflect on things that are happening in my life, but it’s also great to just focus on the rhythm of my breath and my steps and enjoy my surroundings. My motto: Appearance is victory! No matter how hard or far I go on any given day, the fact that I got out at all is a stunner to me.

– Nathan

listen to music

As an Australian living in Vancouver, the dark and short days of the Christmas season feel strange and difficult, and so I listen to Josh Garrels’ Christmas album, The light came down. Garrels’ lyrics from this album comfort me: “The light came down, threw away the darkness… There is a light. A new day dawns. old fades away. All made new.” Thank you Jesus, light of the world, that the darkness does not last.

– Amy
Explore your spiritual wellbeing this Advent through reflective questions from our UK Director, Corin Pilling

Daily centering

During the rush of this season, I find it so important to feel centered and grounded every day. My daily centering time allows me to connect with my feelings and my body with self-compassion. This “reconnecting” also allows me to connect with other people and also with my Creator.

– Markku

Happy movement

Christmas self care ideas

Finding joy in exercise has been my self-care lately. As the days get longer and brighter, there’s no better feeling than trail running: flying downhill, arms akimbo and propelled by my own feet. Now that it’s colder, I’ve replaced that activity with the excitement of skiing. Since I started this winter sport later, I’m always amazed at how nice it is to learn a skill as an adult.

And when life gets overwhelming, lifting heavy objects at the gym has also proven to be a surprising balm for my soul. The concentration on the feeling of movement and the joy of developing new skills make me forget everything else.

– Lizzi

make soup

A big pot of soup simmering on the stove, brimming with all my favorite ingredients – I love to cook by feel rather than following a recipe. The creativity and spontaneity I practice in the kitchen while preparing this meal is my form of self-care on these cold and dark winter nights. It teaches me to slow down and gives me the joy of discovering new (and tasty) formulations. And as I sit at the table and eat from it, I rejoice in a creative God present in all aspects of life, helping me to find joy in something as mundane as making soup.

– Isabel
Explore self-care from psychological, social and theological perspectives in our free resources,
The Sanctuary Course and the Sanctuary Course for Catholics.

[1] Meredith Gould, The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2006), 36.

Cover photo by Anna Peipina on Unsplash

Photos by Marissa Lewis, Genevieve Rusnac, Anne Nygard, Zoe, K. Mitch Hodge and Guillaume Groult, all on Unsplash

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