Tis the season! As many of us are preparing for the upcoming holidays, we’re also facing increased pressures like shopping, holiday parties, traffic, and complex family relationships that can affect our well-being. Stress, anxiety, and depression are often triggered or exacerbated by all the demands the holidays can bring.
Whether you’re already feeling an impact on your mood or you want to be prepared to address any mental health shifts you may be anticipating, we’ve got practical, actionable tips to help you maintain your peace and get through the demands of the season while still prioritizing your mental and emotional health.
1. Embrace Healthy Boundaries
It’s time to get comfortable with the word “No”. You may need to use it on yourself and others more now than at other times during the year. Whether you are double booked or simply can’t take on one more thing at the expense of your well-being, permit yourself to say no by prioritizing what matters most to you.
This goes for work obligations, family obligations, and even things you feel obligated to do for yourself. If it doesn’t feel like it is contributing to your goals, values, and priorities. You can say NO. It takes more practice for some than others, so remember you can also leave social events early, and change your mind at any time if your mental and emotional well-being is at stake.
No is a complete sentence, and you don’t owe it to anybody to explain. But if saying No feels stressful, unnatural, or makes you uneasy about how it will affect relationships that matter to you, take a look at this PsychCentral Article for tips that help make saying No a little more comfortable.
2. Integrate your Favorite Healthy Habits
Now is not the time to adopt a brand-new exercise regime or attempt a food habit that feels limiting or stressful. However, it’s a great time to incorporate the habits you know make you feel great.
What are some of the practices you have already engaged in that make you feel great? Making time for meditation and mindfulness is a strong start to ensuring well-being. Walking is not only a great way to get a little cardio and fresh air, but it has stress-relieving benefits that you might benefit from when things become too much. If you enjoy other activities like free weights, yoga, swimming, or dancing, leave time and space in your schedule to include them.
Meal planning is another smart move where you can incorporate your favorite foods, make sure you’re getting essential nutrition, and be less likely to mindlessly access the extra treats that seem to be available in excess during the holidays. We tend to ignore our hunger signals and then reach for the closest easiest snack. We can also mindlessly binge in an attempt to calm stress and fatigue. Meal planning means ensuring your body and mind have the nutrition they need to operate well. If you truly want the sugar cookie, take it and enjoy it, but paying attention to your body’s needs will help you feel better than scarfing a whole pie.
3. Manage your Expectations
Holidays can feel like a ton of pressure to make everything wonderful and magical. There are countless ways to celebrate, and millions of people believe they can do it all. It’s often a recipe for disaster. You may experience increased stress and anxiety, constant comparison, frustration when things don’t go as planned, exhaustion, burnout, and meltdown. Some people experience these cyclically all season long.
The holidays represent different things for people. Social media can be a great way to learn about new traditions and trends, events in your area, and opportunities to celebrate in various ways. But it can also cause a comparison game, and we always lose when comparing our real life to somebody else’s highlights.
You don’t have to do it all, or any of it for that matter. Think about what matters most to you and your loved ones. Prioritize what brings you joy, and set boundaries with the rest.
Expect the unexpected and roll with it. Some things can’t live up to what we envision, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be wonderful. Celebrate safely and focus on what matters most; the rest will feel much more manageable.
4. Reach Out to Connect with Others
If you’re feeling the holiday mental load, you can and should reach out to others for support. Friends and family can be great sounding boards to help find solutions or offer a sympathetic ear.
The holidays can be a time of isolation for some people. It’s not uncommon for those who have family that is far away or estranged to feel particularly alone. If you are feeling the blues, reach out to loved ones who may not know you’re feeling lonely. Healthy social interaction is vital for mental health during the holidays and all year long.
This is also a great time of year to get involved and give back by volunteering and working with local organizations that matter to you. Bringing joy to others can be a great way to restore your joy. You may also consider joining a social organization like a choir, religious program, or planning committee to help you feel like part of a community. Just don’t go overboard if your calendar is already bursting at the seams.
If you’re feeling the mental load of the holidays, and need additional support and resources this season, connect with Hudson Psychiatric Associates for professional guidance.