self-kindness holidays gift christmas
self kindness

Give Yourself The Gift Of Self-Kindness For The Holidays


The holidays can take a toll on us if we neglect our own needs. It’s easy to get lost in focusing on other people and events, and trying to check all the boxes. The Holidays are a time for connecting with the people we love, and it’s important to take care of ourselves too. Focusing on self-kindness is one way to help get you through the season without feeling too drained.

And it’s not about being selfish, or cynical: self-kindness helps us to be generous and loving to others through the Holidays, while offering the same love and care to ourselves.

So, with that in mind here are seven gifts of self-kindness you can give yourself these Holidays.

The Gift Of Permission

An especially valuable gift is to allow yourself to let go of expectations. Holidays can be a minefield of shoulds and obligations–from self and others. It’s important to give yourself permission to participate in the Holidays in a way that takes into account your own desires, energy levels, and a strong sense of who you are.

This involves consciously setting some boundaries. A nice way to think about boundaries is that you don’t create boundaries to keep other poeple out, you create boundaries for your own energy, to ensure you have what it takes to connect more meaningfully with the people you care for.

The Gift Of Time

The Holidays often descend into a dizzying blur of activity. It may seem impossible at first, but try taking the time to plan a little and slow down. Then slow down some more.

Think about where you might be able to give yourself some time buffers here and there. Can you cut some time from your shopping trip? The wrapping and preparation? Food preparation? Travel? All of these activities can get away from you if you let them. If you can’t cut time out can you spread little breaks for yourself through the time you’ve already committed to?

The Gift Of Space

I remember years back, being in line at a Barnes and Noble bookstore, pretty late on a Christmas Eve. It was jam packed and I can remember the claustrophobic feeling of standing there, people squeezed in on all sides, and a low-grade sense of anxiety rolling through the store. It was such a physical experience.

The holidays are a time where people come together, and hang out in small spaces. It’s worth noting that the people are often gathered together because they are family or friends with a shared history, and this can mean a lot of intense feelings, sometimes positive and sometimes difficult, can come up. That makes it especially important to make sure you can get some space when you need it.

My favorite way to do this is to go outside if possible. I’ll often go stand on the front porch, or in the back yard if there is one. Take a few minutes outside of the packed house, breathe in some fresh air, feel the open space around you and above you. You might be amazed at the difference one or two minutes can make.

If you can’t make it outside, try to find a quiet spot inside where you can just be alone for a few moments–the bathroom, kitchen, maybe a corner of the room where no one else is sitting.

The Gift Of Presence

Christmas is such a sensual time, and filled with beauty, too. Make sure you taste the food, smell the smells, enjoy coming in from the cold into a warm and cozy space.

Connect with yourself whenever you remember to. When you’re seated at the dinner table feel your feet on the floor, appreciate all the faces around you, take in the decorations, be as present as you can for each conversation.

The Gift Of Connection

Make the most of the moment. Who do you most want to catch up with at the family gathering? Who do you want to really touch base with at that party? Is there someone you don’t know who might be interesting to talk to? Keep an eye out for chances to craft your experience so that it resonates for you and others, allow yourself to give what you want to give and receive.

The Gift Of Rest

The Holidays can often take an emotional toll on your body, Whether it’s people you love being around, or not, emotions can get triggered. Underneath everything there’s a whole lot of emotional processing going on.

Be aware of that and allow yourself some downtime to let all this sink in and settle.

The best way to do this is to build in opportunities for rest. Take care to not overcommit to events, or tasks. If you have a long list of things to do, build in mini-rest breaks so you can pace yourself better through the day.

Put time for yourself on your to-do list! Give yourself a half hour somewhere to just put your feet up and recharge before you move onto the next taks or social event. Planning these mini-breaks ahead can really help. (Hint: Other people don’t have to know about this!)

The Gift Of Meaning

Some childhood memories I associate with Christmas include: midnight mass, pillowslips used as christmas stockings, and the slow tempo of Christmas Day spent quietly with the family.

What are the most meaningful memories of the holidays for you? It’s important to remember these and make the most of them. If your memories of the Holidays are not appealing, then give yourself permission to create your own rituals and ways of celebrating.

With the focus on family, and the sometimes overwhelming commercialization, the Holidays can be stressful. Many people are excluded and forgotten in the crush, and it can be the most difficult time of year for many.

In my early twenties I was in recovery from alcohol/addiction problems and feeling pretty alienated. An older member of my local A.A. group took me to a treatment center that had organized a gathering for A.A. members. There was ongoing meetings,free food, and no alcohol around, making it a safe and welcoming environment.

I remember feeling so grateful for the poeple who organized the event, how it allowed me to relax and connect with people and experience a sense of belonging on what would otherwise have been a very tough day.

Reaching out to people having a hard time is a great way to connect more deeply, and remember the real meaning of the Holidays.

Happy Holidays From Welcome Presence

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Holiday Season. And hoping that you remember your own needs and celebrate as fully as you wish.

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  • Reply Jacqueline December 14, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    I loved how well thought out this post was. The holidays are definitely a tough time and keeping your mental, emotional and physical state one check is so important. I’m going to try to practice some of this stuff this year!

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 14, 2016 at 10:39 pm

      Hi Jacqueline,

      Thank you, and I’m glad you’re going to try some of these ideas! I hope you find them helpful.

  • Reply Bianca December 14, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    This is so wonderful. I am VERY guilty of being hard on myself and taking blame- when I’m not even at fault. This will come in handy as I set goals for 2017:)

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 15, 2016 at 6:32 pm

      Hi Bianca,

      Oh, I know what that’s like, I’m guilty of that too 🙂 It’s good to know there are things we can do to look after ourselves a bit better. Hope you set some wonderful goals for the New Year!

  • Reply Joseyphina December 14, 2016 at 11:26 pm

    I definitely need these gifts. Thanks for sharing, Dave!

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 15, 2016 at 6:33 pm

      Hi Joseyphina, thanks for reading!

  • Reply Divine Mwimba December 15, 2016 at 12:56 am

    I need more time and rest for share! I am working 10 hours a day, 7 days a week! I need to relax!


    • Reply Dave Rowley December 15, 2016 at 6:36 pm

      Hi Divine,

      Oh, that’s a lot to deal with! And it’s the reality for so many of us these days. Which makes it so important to find ways to take care of ourselves as best as we can.

  • Reply jiselle December 15, 2016 at 12:59 am

    this is a lovely post true in every way I have been using some of these lately and they have truly been helpful. Thanks for reminding us that our own well being matter just as much as others.

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 15, 2016 at 6:39 pm

      Hi Jiselle,

      It’s great that you’ve been doing some of these things for yourself and found them helpful! I’m glad that you found the post useful, thanks for reading!

  • Reply Barbara December 15, 2016 at 1:01 am

    So true. I want to taste the tastes and smell the smells of this holiday season. Memories are wonderful, but I want to enjoy this year, as well.

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 15, 2016 at 6:40 pm

      Hi Barbara,

      Yes! there’s so much to be enjoyed. It can be such a beautiful time of the year.

  • Reply Kimberly @ Berly's Kitchen December 15, 2016 at 1:17 am

    This is a beautiful post, and reading it was calming. I need to do everyone of these things over the holidays to help destress and enjoy the season.

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 15, 2016 at 6:44 pm

      Hi Kimberley,

      I’m glad you found it calming, that’s great! Pausing, for even a moment, to hold the idea of self-kindness can create a little shift just on its own. We’re so conditioned to forget about that.

  • Reply Crissy December 15, 2016 at 2:35 am

    I love all the gifts of self kindness you came up with! I feel like they are all great suggestions and it’s something we can keep in mind during a stressful holiday season. Thanks for the inspiration.


    • Reply Dave Rowley December 15, 2016 at 6:47 pm

      Hi Crissy,

      I’m so glad you liked the gifts of self-kindness, hope they help make your holiday season special!

  • Reply Vicki @ Babies to Bookworms December 15, 2016 at 3:47 am

    These are awesome. It is so hard to remember to give yourself time to recharge and pamper yourself.

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 19, 2016 at 8:54 pm

      Hi Vicki,

      It’s easy to forget isn’t it? I’m glad you found the post helpful!

  • Reply Kandja Sylla December 15, 2016 at 5:18 am

    I love this post! The gifts that focuses on one’s well-being for us not feel drained during this holiday season. I love the most is the Gift Of Presence and the Gift Of Connection. Thanks for this holiday tips Dave. xx

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 15, 2016 at 6:49 pm

      Hi Kandja,

      Presence and connection, I love those gifts, too. So important for this time of the year 🙂

  • Reply In The Name Of Your Daughter December 15, 2016 at 5:23 am

    This is a very lovely and inspiring post. I noticed that during the holiday season we are mostly focused on activities and other people. We sometimes forget to give ourselves gifts. Your suggestions are all achievable but often taken for granted. Thank you for writing this Dave. Have a great day!–3/x/15282063#/

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 15, 2016 at 6:51 pm

      Hi, In The Name …

      It’s so true that we are trained to be focused on activities and other people at this time of the year, I’d love for everyone to remember themselves at the same time. I’m glad you found the post helpful!

  • Reply Ashley December 15, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    This is such a beautiful piece. It made me well up. The holidays are usually hectic and no one gives you the time to be you, and it almost seems like you offend everyone when you take a break! Thank you for this article. I am going to face the holidays with much gusto now.

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 15, 2016 at 6:53 pm

      Hi Ashley,

      I’m so glad this piece touched you, that means a lot to me. I hope you have a wonderful Holiday Season, and that you get time to be you and take care of yourself!

  • Reply Daria December 15, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    You are right in every aspect! I hope your post goes far and wide to help people stop the craziness at this time of year. The gift of permission especially resonates with me. And I love how you say the boundaries are for your own energy. As an introvert, I need a lot of alone time, and I’ve learned to guard that over the years. Loved this post.

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 15, 2016 at 7:02 pm

      Hi Daria,

      I’m an introvert as well, and I’ve had to learn a lot of this stuff the hard way. Thinking about my energy levels and how they’re affected by all the activities at this time of year has been so helpful for me.

  • Reply Joleene Moody December 15, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    What a genuinely amazing post. I had to share this because I know SO many people that don’t take a single moment to slow down and give themselves permission to just….be! I’ve gotten better with age. I know in my earlier days I didn’t know how to slow down, let alone think of myself. I’m learning. 😉 Thank you for the fantastic reminder.

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 19, 2016 at 5:57 pm

      Hi Joleene,

      I’m still learning too! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  • Reply Susan Mary Malone December 15, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Oh, I love this, Dave! And you know, when we give ourselves gifts such as these, we so enrich our world. Every holiday season, I give myself the gift of time, and take off a “free” week from Christmas to New Years. Ah, how that helps me experience the rest of the gifts you list!

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 19, 2016 at 5:59 pm

      Hi Susan,

      You’re so right about enriching the world when we take core of ourselves. I love your idea of giving yourself a ‘free week’ from Christamas to New Year’s. What a beautiful practice!

  • Reply Raquel Harbin December 15, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    I love this so much! It’s true we are so hard on ourselves all the time, it’s important to ease up a little bit. And also you are spot on with presence and connection, we are too disconnected from others in the age of social media!

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 19, 2016 at 8:57 pm

      Hi Raquel,

      Oh, yes–definitely too hard on ourselves. And social media does seem to make us more disconnected doesn’t it?

  • Reply Jenn December 15, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    Permission & presence are my favorite. I decided this year to not do a full day of cookie baking with friends. I still made cookies with my daughters, but it was a much more relaxed affair. Also, I am scheduling out business activities and informing coaching clients that I am on holiday, so I can enjoy our family trip down south!

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 19, 2016 at 8:59 pm

      Hi Jenn,

      So nice that you scaled back a little and baked cookies with your daughters. Focusing on family is a great way to make the Holidays a little easier energy-wise. Enjoy your trip!

  • Reply Reba Linker December 15, 2016 at 9:54 pm

    I really needed this: “Think about where you might be able to and give yourself some time buffers here and there.” I don’t have much family or a big social whirl, so I tend to think I don;t need to worry about all this, yet it is so easy to get caught up. Your post helps me remember that I still do have gifts to buy, wrap and give, and I’m even throwing a big party to celebrate my youngest daughter’s birthday. So the first thing I need to do is take a breath and acknowledge all that I’m doing! Whew! I needed this!

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 19, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      Hi Reba,

      ” … take a breath and acknowledge all that I’m doing!” I love that, it’s so easy to forget the small wise acts that help us to get through. So nice to see you here 🙂

  • Reply Sue Kearney December 16, 2016 at 12:14 am

    Dave, Hi. I love this post, and find it really resonant. In 12-step recovery we talk about alcoholism as a threefold disease (physical, mental, spiritual). I have put my own spin on that statement for years by saying it’s a threefold disease: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.

    This can be such an exquisitely difficult time of year! The pressure to be invited, included, not lonely. All that.

    Thanks for your gentle and loving suggestions!

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 19, 2016 at 9:03 pm

      Hi Sue,

      I love your Holiday spin on the threefold disease 🙂 I can relate to that! Yes, I still feel the pressure– no matter how far along I get. Best wishes, Sue!

  • Reply Christina Berger December 16, 2016 at 1:03 am

    This is something that we all have to remember this time of the year. not only do we need to appreciate everyone we love, but we also need to appreciate ourselves.

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 19, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      Hi Christina,

      I love that you bring up Appreciation, for ourselves and others. So important!

  • Reply Natasha Botkin December 16, 2016 at 1:22 am

    Wonderful ways of self-love and self-care. Thanks for sharing wealth of wisdom! Oodles of love

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 19, 2016 at 9:05 pm

      Hi Natasha,

      Thank you, and oodles of love to you as well!

  • Reply Vatsala Shukla December 16, 2016 at 7:19 am

    A much needed reminder to all of us Dave, who need to remember that gift giving begins with us and self-kindness is the first one. Even then, we push ourselves to make it a great holiday and end up getting even more stressed.

    It’s time to remember that even in plane rides, the instructions in case of emergency is to put on our oxygen mask first and then for others. Same principles apply here too.

    Happy Holidays.

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 19, 2016 at 9:06 pm

      Hi Vatsala,

      Yes! I love that oxygen mask analogy, so fitting here. So important to spread the love to everyone at this time of year, including ourselves. Happy Holidays!

  • Reply Carola December 19, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    Great list. In always chaotic and busy. Never standing still. But I agree : be aware of the food, the people, everything. And enjoy.

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 19, 2016 at 9:08 pm

      Hi Carola,

      ‘Chaotic’ is a great description of this time of year 🙂 Chaotic, but with lots of love and beauty around too. As you say, it’s good to be aware of (and enjoy) the food, the people, everything!

  • Reply Lisa Sell December 19, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    I love this post! As you know I’ve written a post this week about how the festive season can be a difficult time. I feel that our posts sit well side-by-side. This can be a demanding and stressful time of year. I love your idea of gifting ourselves with the essentials to make sure we are looking after our own needs too.

    The gift of meaning resonates with me. Christmas can be what you want it to be and you can attach your own specific meaning to it. I’ve learnt this along the way.

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 19, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      Hi Lisa,

      I’m with you on the importance of meaning. And it’s so good that we get to determine that for ourselves as well. So nice to see you here! I’ve been enjoying your posts, they make me laugh and that’s definitely a welcome gift this time of the year 🙂

  • Reply Heather Christian December 19, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    This post is everything that we all should focus on over the holidays. Love this reminder of kindness and self-care.

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 19, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      Hi Heather,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, Thank you!

  • Reply Ada December 19, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    What a great post! I definetly gift myself with most of this things although it’s not that easy! Hopefully we can all make it happend ! Merry Christmas !

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 20, 2016 at 7:12 am

      Hi Ada,

      I’m glad you’re already doing most of these, and yes–it would be great if we could all make this happen!

  • Reply Bianca December 19, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    So much YES to this! This time of year, though joyful, can bring up all kinds of feels, thank you for tackling this subject!

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 20, 2016 at 7:14 am

      Hi Bianca,

      This time of year does bring up so much, “all kinds of feels” as you say! It’s great to have some strategies in place, cheers!

  • Reply Shannon December 20, 2016 at 3:22 am

    This is a lovely post and something I’ve been trying to work on. I am guilty of being hard on myself and not being as present as I should, thank you for the great tips.

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 20, 2016 at 7:15 am

      Hi Shannon,

      So good that you’re already working on these, it’s so easy to get caught up in being hard on ourselves. Have a great Holiday Season!

  • Reply Julie December 20, 2016 at 5:19 am

    This is a great list! We are focusing so much on other people during the holidays that we forget to take care of ourselves.

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 20, 2016 at 7:16 am

      Hi Julie,

      Yes! It’s great that we want to focus on others, but also good to take care of ourselves at the same time. 🙂

  • Reply Nicole Parise December 20, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    I love these, especially the gift of presence! Just really being there fully can be much more rewarding.
    xx nicole

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 21, 2016 at 3:33 am

      Hi Nicole,

      Yes, the gift of presence is number one for me too. It’s kind of tucked away in all of these gifts, I think. Maybe I’m just biased there 🙂

  • Reply Marie Green December 21, 2016 at 1:44 am

    What a meaningful gift to give ourselves, thank you for the reminder. While giving to others this season, its important to remember to give to ourselves as well 🙂

    • Reply Dave Rowley December 21, 2016 at 3:34 am

      Hi Marie,

      So important to give to ourselves as well! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply Oyinkan Ogunleye December 21, 2016 at 5:09 am

    The gift of time is soo important. Many don’t value time enough!

    • Reply Dave Rowley March 1, 2017 at 4:22 pm

      That’s so true! Thank you, Oyinkan 🙂

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