2020 Holiday Self-Care Guide

Last year I posted the Holiday Self-Care Anti-Challenge on Instagram. The idea behind my anti-challenge was to encourage people to actually tend to their own needs during a time of year that we are usually rushing around, wearing ourselves out, and emptying our wallets in the spirit of giving.

instagram post an orange background and white text that reads “2019 the holiday self-care anti-challenge with Laura Khoudari”

The seven tips were:

  1. Set up a quiet room
  2. Say “No,” to invitations
  3. Move Slow
  4. Plan your staycation
  5. Play with the kids and pets
  6. Resolve to decide in the moment
  7. Move!

For many of us, the 2020 holiday season is looking different from those in the past. For example, suggesting that folks set up a quiet room at their party assumes that there are lots of parties to be had.

That said, when I reviewed my 2019 list I saw that it was still useful and offered sound suggestions to consider as we move into this unusual 2020 holiday season. Presumably your holiday will look and feel different, but it may still involve socializing, albeit remotely or outside. You may still find yourself wanting to say “no” to invitations to events you don’t feel comfortable attending. Many of you are staying home for the holidays so you might consider planing staycations. And some of you have pets and kids who can help you play. You will still be making (or intentionally not making in my case) New Year’s resolutions, and there is always a need for movement. So without further ado, I present to you my 2020 Holiday Self-Care tips:

1. Set up a quiet zone

Christmas socked feet on coffee table in foreground. White woman drinking a hot beverage on couch is blurry in the background

In the introduction to Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice Brother Phap Dung writes, “When we have a peaceful space, then we can come back into ourselves. That is the intention of sacred space. But we don’t need to wait until we can find a church, temple, mosque, synagogue, or other space designed for sacred contemplation. A small path, a patch of grass, or a corner of our workspace will do.”

My quiet space away from work, training, sleep, or parenting is a particular chair that I sit in. From it I look out the window at the view of New York’s magnificent skyline. I try to drink a cup of coffee there daily.

2. Say “no” to invitations

I am not comfortable with indoor gatherings. I am not comfortable with medium-sized outdoor gatherings even with masks. I am not comfortable with outdoor dining. I am getting very good at saying, “no” along with “please keep your mask on.” I also find online social gatherings totally draining. And because I want to enjoy my holidays I am passing on virtual celebrations, opting instead for phone calls with loved ones. I suggest you listen to your own guts and boundaries on this one folks. And I also know that while sometimes we know what our boundaries are, enforcing them feels hard.

I am certain that the idea of declining invitations resonates with some of you, but you do not know how to actually say “no.” In order to give you some ideas I have provided a little brief play between me and an imaginary pushy loved one, Mrs. Bennet.

Mrs. Bennet standing behind Mr. Bennet making a very excited face from the BBC Pride and Prejudice mini-series.
Mrs. Bennet lives for social events.

Mrs. Bennet: I hope you will come to our Virtual Ugly Holiday Festive Cocktail Trivia Movie Night Extravaganza next Friday evening?

Me: I’m sorry. I won’t be joining this year.

Mrs. B: Why? Do you have other plans? Don’t you want to gather with us and make the best of this awful year?

Me: As much as I love you and the crew, I am not doing any virtual gatherings this holiday season.


Me: As much as I love you and the crew, I am not feeling up to it this year.


Me: I am limiting my virtual social gatherings because I am completely Zoomed- out. Let’s have a phone call that Sunday and you can update me on everyone and tell me about the festivities.

We may not know why Mrs. Bennet is being so pushy but find a way to let her know it is not personal (if it’s not) and stand your ground.

3. Move slow

As I wrote last year, I love experimenting with different movement modalities, including ones that get me moving and my heart pumping. That said this year has been emotional and taxing for most of us. I recommend trying out a slower, more stabilizing practice; maybe it’s tempo work with weights, maybe it’s yoga, maybe it’s a long walk in the snow.

4. Plan your staycation

I know, you’ve been home staring at the same walls going on nine months now with each day blending into the next. Articles as early on as April 2020 began popping up about how people don’t know what day it is due to the loss of social anchors and physiological stress responses. In an effort to create a time-anchor out of the holidays and make some space to redirect your focus to things you enjoy, make a list of things you would like to do during your time off. Your list may include movies you want to watch, phone or video calls you want to make, foods you want to cook or eat, games you want to play, and decorations you want to hang. Once you have your list, schedule time for each of them in your calendar. If you live with others, planning together can be a great way to get excited for the holidays this year. By bringing intention to marking this holiday season a special and significant time you are less likely to lose the holidays in a holi-daze and are more likely to enjoy yourself.

5. Play with kids and pets

Play has been found to reduce stress levels, improve brain function, stimulate your mind, and improve relationships in adults! There are so many ways to play but if you are feeling stumped how to get playful, let the little ones in your life lead by example or play with your pets. Everyone benefits!

Silhouette of woman sitting with back to camera facing a valley and city skyline.

6. Resolve to stay in the moment

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. For 2019 I shared my philosophy by sharing the idea of resolving to “decide in the moment.” This year I am encouraging you to try to stay in the moment. Anxiety is running high right now. Anxiety is an unpleasant form of time travel focused on the “what -ifs” in the future. And while I am all for having a plan and a backup plan, the best way to deal with anxiety is to focus on the here and now. There are many tools out there for getting present whether it be mindfulness practices or orienting techniques.

7. Move!

Don’t forget to move a little for the sake of moving each day. A walk, a kitchen dance party, a virtual spin class — anything. We could all use some extra endorphins as the days grow colder and the nights longer. I have become curious about running, I have been working on training proper running mechanics and plan to put cold weather running clothes on my wishlist so I can get moving outdoors this winter.

I hope you found these suggestions helpful. No matter the shape of your 2020 holiday season, may it be peaceful, healthy, and fun. And as always, if you know someone who may benefit from this guide, please pass it along.

Author of Lifting Heavy Things, Trauma Informed Personal Trainer, learn more at laurakhoudari.com

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