Practicing self-care during the holidays: Make a must, should, and could list

December 7, 2018

While the holiday season is often a cherished time of year, it can also be stressful, or bring about a lot of difficult emotional triggers, such as grief or painful memories. Additionally, all too often we put pressure on ourselves to keep traditions going, say yes to every invitation, and make sure everything is “perfect.” This is an unfair expectation to put on yourself. Instead, we encourage you to practice self-care and grace.

One simple way to help manage your stress during the holidays is to make a must list, a should list, and a could list. Jolene Brackey’s book, Creating Moments of Joy, recommends this practice.

Think about what you MUST do, what you SHOULD do, and what you COULD do. For example, I MUST buy gifts for my grandchildren. I SHOULD bake some holiday treats, but I COULD buy them at a local bakery.

If you feel strongly that you MUST prepare a turkey, could others bring the trimmings? If you’re going to someone else’s home and usually bring homemade cookies, could you give yourself permission to buy some this year? (Yes, you can!)

Remember, too, that is it okay to say “no,” or offer an alternative like, “I just can’t right now, but how about after the New Year, thank you so much for understanding.” If at all possible, schedule some things for yourself that are restorative, whether it is taking a nap, enjoying a cup of tea and quiet space, or a walk around the neighborhood.

We wish you and your family a peaceful and blessed holiday season. And, should you need support during the holiday season, we encourage you to call (202) 895-9448, and ask for our Helpline or email