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8 ways to unwind and give back during the holidays

It's so easy to get caught up in the GO GO GO of the holidays. I know this from experience. Let's all take a little time to unwind and give back this season.

Whether you’re a student studying for finals, a parent baking cookies for class parties, hosting Christmas at your house, or all of the above, it’s hard to escape all the expectations and never-ending to-do list that this time of year brings.

I’m no stranger to this myself. With two young daughters and a busy photography business, I’m putting together my eight ways to unwind and give back (to ourselves and others) over the holidays. I need these ideas just as much as the next woman! And to make it even better, these are all free or very inexpensive!

  • Read a good book. I’m talking about fun, easy reads that won’t make your brain hurt. Many books are available for download on Amazon for 99 cents. You can also head to the public library and ask a librarian for some recommendations.
  • The next time you’re at Target, grab a $2 facial mask kit, a $2 bottle of nail polish, and a $3 candle. For under $10, you have a home spa kit! Bonus points if your bathroom door has a lock so your family will leave you alone while you take some time for yourself.
  • There are so many feel-good movies around this time of year. Hallmark has the corner on Christmas love stories, or hit up Netflix and find childhood favorites (Home Alone, anyone?).
  • Take a drive around your city to check out Christmas lights! Get some paper cups with lids or travel coffee mugs and drink hot chocolate along the way. Many cities have radio stations that play Christmas music 24/7, so you can sing along to your favorite holiday tunes and really get in the spirit.
  • For me, giving is always better than receiving. So, look for opportunities to volunteer at a shelter, nursing home, or another location that could use some help. Or, pack up a bag with winter gear you don’t use anymore and keep it in your car. You can donate it on the spot when you see someone in need. Hot Hands hand warmers can work miracles for someone who needs quick warmth.
  • Practice daily gratitude. For many of us, this time of year works us to the bone and it often feels like we’re running 100 miles per hour. Over time, this can leave us grumpy, burned out, and resentful. I’ve found (and studies show) that taking just a few minutes a day to think about, or write down, what you’re thankful for, can help ease the holiday blues.
  • Speaking of holiday blues, there are so many people out there who DON’T feel the joy of the holidays.  There are many reasons this can happen. From loss and grief, illness, family struggles, depression, or the stress of trying to financially afford gifts for your children, I totally understand that many are in this boat. Please know that I see you and you’re on my heart, especially this time of year. If you know someone in a similar situation, consider reaching out to them with encouragement. You could extend an invitation to your family Christmas dinner. Or, offer to bring them a meal if they don’t want to or can’t be around others?
  • Put down your phone! Listen, I love social media…perhaps too much. So I know that even though it’s a wonderful thing, it can also lead to comparison, tension, and stress. Are everyone’s perfect matching family pajamas pictures, engagements, and pregnancy announcements annoying you?  Then try taking a break from social media for a little while. You probably won’t miss out on anything really important, and it’ll give you more time to try out the other things I’ve suggested!


There, you have my top eight ways to unwind, and give back this holiday season. Merry Christmas, and I’ll see you next week!