Tis the season to be jolly! For some people, maybe, but for many; the holidays can bring forth mixed emotions. It’s that time of year when friends and family travel across the globe to visit with loved ones, catch up with one another on their latest endeavors and accomplishments, and embrace the holiday spirit with gifts and gratitude. Yet, such festivities can also be a harsh reminder of strained relationships and a platform for comparison and feelings of inadequacy. Whether you are living your best life or are going through a rough patch, all of the celebrations can be a bit overwhelming. Taking care of your mental health is key to not just “getting through” the holidays, but actually enjoying them. Stay prepared for every occasion with these tips below to ensure your mental health is well cared for this holiday season.
Enjoy the outdoors
Step outside, go for a leisurely walk, and enjoy the sunshine. The temperatures may be cooler and the rays may be short-lived, but taking the time to breathe in the fresh air can be invigorating. The sun is a great source of vitamin D and incorporating any sort of exercise will help scare those winter blues away.
Hit the snooze button
Get some much needed rest. Now is the time to catch up on those Zs and step away from the everyday hustle and bustle. Sleep is restorative; don’t underestimate its benefits.
Eat, drink, and be merry (respectively)
Stick to your normal diet as much as possible. I know, I know; easier said than done. However, using the holidays as an excuse to be gluttonous is a trap for your mental health. On one hand, food brings people together, but it is so easy to overindulge, especially when you start to nervously eat (and drink) because your aunt is grilling you about your love life and providing unsolicited advice on putting yourself out there. Don’t beat yourself up for having that extra slice of apple pie, but be mindful of how you nourish your body during the food-filled season.
Pick a pastime
Some of you may have saved those sick days to enjoy during the holidays and now have too much free time on your hands. Instead of letting your mind race about what gift to give your hard-to-please father-in-law or your house being picture perfect, try tapping into a hobby or extracurricular activity you’ve been meaning to get back into. Start a puzzle, read a book, attempt a new recipe, or maybe even learn a new skill like photography or crafting your own beer. Having a creative outlet or something that stimulates the mind will not only provide you with something interesting to do, but gives you something to talk about at the dinner table other than politics and religion.
Meditation has become a trendy technique to ease the mind, and for good reason. When your patience is tested and you notice your blood pressure beginning to rise, take a moment to pause. Stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and have a bit of road rage? Nervous about getting everything done before your guests arrive? Anxious over your tight budget, limiting you from having the ideal Christmas for your kids? Do a few deep breathing exercises to ground yourself: inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds, and repeat. Implementing this simple technique will help slow your mind and body down during these high-stress moments.
Limit your social media usage. Stop scrolling entirely if you desire, but for most, that is difficult to do. Instead, use the extra time you would be on social media to reconnect with people you actually care about in person. Social media has become a normality in our daily routines, but sometimes it can display too much of the good, and not much of the bad or the ugly. Check yourself after getting on twitter, facebook, instagram, or whatever outlet you use. Ask yourself, “how do I feel after viewing others profiles?” Do you feel happy? Do you feel tense or sad? Technology has made it so easy for us to compare ourselves to others, but let’s face it, these media outlets are mostly highlighting the extraordinary parts of people’s lives, spurring us to feel envious and sometimes bitter. Grab a coffee with an old friend, play a silly game with your family…whatever you end up doing, I promise you will cherish these memories more than what you see on social media.
Donate your time, money, or energy
Do something for someone else. It can be as little as helping out with the dishes to volunteering at a local charity. Doing something for someone and expecting nothing in return is humbling, making it much easier to embrace the holiday spirit.
Make yourself a priority
Know your limits and stop putting too much pressure on yourself. Yes, this time is special in that we get to give to others and spend time with those we love, but don’t forget to take care of yourself. Carve out a day (or an hour, or a few minutes) dedicated to self-care. Give yourself space and only participate in the things that you feel are important.
Reflect on the future, not the past
Although the holidays are typically meant to be joyous and cheerful, they can conjure up feelings that make it difficult to rejoice and be glad. You may have recently lost a loved one or lost a job that made you happy and are struggling to enjoy this “supposed” merry time. It is absolutely okay to mourn these losses, but the key is not to dwell in them. You may feel heartbroken or even in shock by unplanned events. Instead of focusing on what you had or what used to be, focus on the future. Uphold a tradition that your loved one enjoyed or start brainstorming on new things you are wanting to work towards. Again, it is healthy to grieve these losses but ruminating on them will only leave you with feelings of despair.
Spend quality time
Focus on the relationships that matter to you. We tend to get caught up in making sure we see everyone in a short amount of time, but life is too short to be wasting precious time and energy on people that don’t bring you joy. The holidays are not about how many friends you have or how many family parties you get to attend, it’s about sharing moments with people that lift you up. Remember, it’s quality over quantity.
The holiday season is going to have its ups and downs, as it always does. Nevertheless, when you find yourself swamped with the holiday stress, don’t forget to nourish your mind, body and soul. Doing so will allow you to appreciate what is important in life.
Cheers to a good state of mind, full bellies, and good spirits!