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Ah, the holidays. The most wonderful time of the year, right? For me, the end of December is a time where I get to chill with my family and eat some good, homemade food. It’s also the time of year where I find myself having a panic attack over trivial details like not being able to find the right cookie ingredients (true story: It happened in the parking lot of a Whitby Loblaws two years ago). I’m a perfectionist, especially when it comes to upholding traditions, and I’ve driven myself to exhaustion with all the parties, shopping and baking all day long. Almost every December, I’d end up spending too much, running around too much and not spending enough time doing simply nothing with the people I love.

My parents' puppy Chipper inspires me to take more naps. Also, he's the best at cuddling.

My parents’ puppy Chipper inspires me to take more naps. Also, he’s the best at cuddling.

So this year, I’m trying to do things differently. I’ve let friends and family know that I’m not doing gifts, but I am available for hugs and to bake (a reasonable amount of) delicious cookies. I’ve been thinking a lot about self-care this month and what it means during this time of year. Last week, I sat down to make a list of ideas to keep myself calm this season. After three items (make a healthy meal, take a hot bath, read a good book ), I had nothing. Aside from reading and going for a walk, almost everything I thought of had to do with bathing, beauty or cleaning.

I’ve been reading some amazing articles and zines on what self care really means, like this column on the Hairpin and Methods of Self-Care from Jodie Layne and Kara Haupt. To quote Jodie:

… Self-care isn’t all bubble baths and platitudes. A lot of the self-care I’m involved in is really difficult work. Sure, I have my little daily checklists and rituals, but self-care is also big work like healing from past sexual assault trauma or dealing with the way anxiety affects my everyday life.

My researching opened my mind to the concept of what it truly means to care for oneself. Today, for the first time in awhile, I didn’t have any plans. At first, I found myself making a to-do list (laundry, emails, write a blog post) but then I stopped myself. The list was starting to stress me out and I realized I was planning my gloriously-free day hour by hour. Self-care doesn’t mean to-do lists on lazy Sundays. So I made myself a proper lunch with some fresh coffee and  laid on the couch wrapped in the coziest blanket I own. I called my best friend and my mom.


My friend Jessica and I practicing some self-care with terrifying (but very refreshing) face masks.

After I felt rested and full, I went for a stroll through my neighbourhood with no destination in mind and found the perfect birthday present for a friend. More than once, I had to remind myself to be mindful and not to worry about work tomorrow. Then I took a long nap. I didn’t do laundry or touch the sink full of dishes. And I feel pretty damn good after such a chill day where I focused only on myself. I’m still learning what the concept of self-care really means to me, but I think I’m off to a swell start.

One thing I do know for sure about self-care during the winter? Many of my friends and I stop taking care of our skin. As soon as time falls back an hour, all I want to do is fall into bed at the end of the night. I don’t have time to put lotion on my feet! I’m too busy scrolling through Twitter at 12am to moisturize. Time to switch up that backward logic. Moisturizing feels good! Take five minutes in the morning and in the evening to soothe your dry skin and you’ll feel so much more comfortable, especially just before bed. Here’s a quick list of a few skin savers I’ve discovered that won’t run up a ridiculous bill (unless you have Optimum points- then you can get your fancy on).

Vaseline Cocoa Butter Lip Therapy, $2 (Walmart and Shoppers). This lip balm smells amazing, feels great on your lips and the container is tiny enough to carry it in your coat pocket.

Aveeno Shower and Bath Oil, $13 (Walmart and Shoppers). This sweet-smelling stuff has been my number one winter product since I discovered it last year. Even if you don’t lotion up after a shower, slick some of this on fresh out of the tub and your skin will stay soft through the day. I also love Balea Bath Oil; it reminds me of the Alpha Keri oil I used to soothe my eczema when I was a kid.

Aveeno Baby Eczema Care Moisture Cream, $12 (Walmart and Shoppers). Speaking of eczema, it’s still an issue for me in the winter months sometimes, but I’ve kept my legs free from itchiness with this lotion. There’s an adult version, but this one feels a little bit more oily, which is key for rough patches.

Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Control Moisturizer, $9 (Walmart and Shoppers). I have combination skin, which means I get dry cheeks and an oily t-zone in the winter months. I use this moisturizer in the morning. It feels great going on and softens my cheeks without oiling up the rest of my face.

Vaseline Cocoa Radiant Body Butter, $8 (Walmart and Shoppers). You can get good cocoa butter, any brand, under $10. I used to buy the no-name brand from Shoppers and to this day, it’s some of the best moisturizer I’ve ever used during the winter. You don’t have to drop $50 on the fancy stuff when the alternative is just as good.

Take care, everyone, and please share your self-care tips and strategies with me on Facebook and Twitter. I want to know how you take care of yourself during this busy time of year!

The nap + cuddle combo.

The nap + cuddle combo.