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7 Ways to Practice Self-Care During the Holidays

November 22, 2021

By Marianne Huebner, MS-ATR, Art Therapist 

“We must have pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of pie.” - David Mamet

Each year, after the celebration of haunts and spirits, we begin to prepare for the feasts and frosts that mark late autumn.  This prep time is peppered with tremendous change.  Pumpkins change from jack-o-lanterns to pie. Apples become hot cider. The days grow shorter and longer simultaneously as we see the end of daylight savings time.  Morning dew changes to frost as we start to feel the chill of winter to come.

As we put away patio sets and tuck away into the warmth and glow of the great indoors, we begin to inventory the tasks, tolls and tedium that accompany the approaching holidays.  This inventory piles up like leaves in our yards and gutters, clogging the natural flow of things and making a mess of everything else. It is compounded by the often-overwhelming nature of change and can leave us feeling stressed and unable to bear witness to another leaf falling from the trees, much less prepare for snowflakes falling from the sky.

Holiday Stress

How do you know when your tolerance for change or stress has reached the capacity of your internal lawn bag?  How do you know when you are stressed and what can you do about it?  According to a recent article from the Mayo clinic, too much or unmanaged stress can result in a wide variety of both physical and mental ailments such as feeling fatigued or restless, experiencing headaches, body aches and more seriously, chest pains.  This list also includes experiencing racing thoughts, feeling overwhelmed, feeling anxious and/or depressed. This list from the Mayo Clinic can bring an awareness to some of the symptoms you may be experiencing.  These symptoms can manifest in behavioral changes like isolating, forgetfulness, and moodiness. 

Recognizing how you are feeling is the first step in feeling better. As basic as this sound, it’s true.  The list of other stress-reducing methods also fall into this category and can be said to be as simple as making pie.  Making pie, though not on the official list, should be, because it meets the criteria for other items on the list.

7 Self-Care Tips to Support Mental Wellness

Deep Breathing

Bringing awareness to your breath can also bring an awareness of how little breath we actually take in.  Breathing deeply improves blood flow, increasing the oxygen levels in the body as well as the levels of out-going carbon dioxide. In relation to pie, imagine inhaling the wafting scent of actual pumpkin spice coming from the oven.  That, in itself, is reason enough to include “making pie” as a means of stress reduction. Go ahead. Breathe deeply. And often.

Be Present

Many times we are jumping into the future, ruminating about the past, or being anywhere other than here and now. Focusing on your breath is a great way to become present. Sit comfortably, breathe and bring awareness to any one of the five senses.  Really become aware of what you are experiencing in this moment. This is mindfulness, and this practice of being present and aware has shown to decrease mood disturbances and increase a sense of well-being. It’s hard to make a pie if you are not in the room.  Be there. Make pie.


Breathing and mindfulness are two types of meditation.  Meditation is learning how to be still so that awareness can happen.  It doesn’t take long and there are apps to help.  My personal favorites include Insight Timer, Calm, and Headspace.  The apps are free and can walk you through a variety of meditations, including lessons on how to meditate. Still not convinced? ABC news anchor and author, Dan Harris, addresses meditation and mindfulness with humility and humor in his two books.

Get Moving

Go for a walk. Kick leaves.  Pick up sticks.  Do yoga. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of mild exercise 3 to 5 days a week for stress reduction, improved sleep, and better mental health. My suggestion is to walk or ride your bike to the grocery store because those ingredients for pie aren’t going to magically appear by themselves.

Listen to music

Music impacts our mood and can lift our spirits enough to thinking that making a pie would be a brilliant idea. What’s that one song that always lifts your spirits? Play it while you make pie.

Reach out

Isolation and loneliness are contributing factors to depression. As hard as it is to reach out to family or friends, this is an important means of reducing stress, feeling a sense of belonging and contributing to a sense of purpose in our lives. If you make pie, people will come. Have forks ready.

Be Grateful

Establishing a practice of gratitude is as easy as…..(pie!)

Importance of Gratitude

This practice is so important it was built into our nation’s history.  In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared the 3rd Thursday of November to be a day of thanks.  He made this decree to remind people to be thankful and offer gratitude “for that which has been earned, given and granted” and includes “family, friends, freedom and life itself.”  The practice of gratitude has been noted to improve mood, sleep, increase energy and makes us more likely to exercise as well as to be seen by others as more likeable overall.* 

The practice of gratitude can be a solitary venture (create a joy jar—a jar filled with notes about what brings you joy or create a gratitude journal and write each day about at least one thing that you are thankful for) but it is a journey that is best shared.  Sharing gratitude is as simple as…offering a kind word, making someone laugh, or—as we have seen on bumper stickers—commit random acts of kindness.  Hold a door open for someone.  Send flowers.  Make pie. 


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Editor’s note: This blog post is presented for informational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness. If you have any health concern, see a licensed healthcare professional in person.