No matter what feelings you’re experiencing, you can manage your mental health during the holiday season. Here’s how.
The holidays are often synonymous with pressure. You may feel pressure to take part in activities and events, buy gifts, travel, and consume more food and drink than usual. And it can be hard to say no.
Saying no is even more difficult when you factor in your emotions or feelings.
But the best way to manage your mental health this holiday season is to be intentional. Here are some great ways to get started.
- Understand: Your needs and know they are essential and valid.
- Communicate: What your needs are in a firm but kind approach.
- Identify: Realistic expectations for yourself and others.
- Acknowledge: Setting boundaries doesn’t immediately imply that someone will oblige. Be willing to accept it (and walk away) if necessary.
Maintain Your Routine
There’s no doubt that the holidays can throw off your entire schedule. This includes all the things that help you maintain your mental health. But aim to keep your routine whenever possible.
Here are ways to maintain your routine even during a packed holiday season.
Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood. It also improves self-esteem, cognitive function, memory, and sleep quality. Exercise can relieve stress and ease symptoms like low self-esteem and social withdrawal.
Here’s how to adjust your exercise routine during the holidays.
- Plan: If you’re traveling for the holidays, ask about local gyms, parks, or outdoor trails nearby. If you’re staying with family or friends, ask about any equipment you can use or a space you can work out in.
- Prepare: Develop a simple workout plan that doesn’t need much equipment. Focus on activities like walking or running and bodyweight exercises. If you must use equipment, opt for resistance bands since they are easy to transport. And if your holiday schedule is limited, plan 10-minute routines you can do anytime.
- Optimize: Use every chance you can to sneak in some movement. This might mean going outside for a brisk walk or setting up a game of football, tag, or hide and seek. Offer to help with more labor-intensive chores like shoveling snow and raking leaves. All movement counts.
A healthy, well-balanced diet can help you think and feel more alert. It can also improve concentration and attention span.
If you’re a guest at a dinner party, it may be easy to overindulge in both food and drinks. Aim to keep your nutrition routine as normal as possible. Eat regular meals with suitable portions and include well-balanced choices. Practice mindfulness when you’re eating.
Sleep is as crucial to your health as eating, drinking, and breathing. Adequate sleep allows your body to repair itself. Sleep enables your brain to merge your memories and process information. Poor sleep is linked to physical problems such as a weakened immune system and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Aim to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, even if you’re busy.
Continue Coping Skills
Continue your regular coping skills throughout the holidays. This is essential for managing your mental health and making healthy choices—especially because 29 percent of people say they drink more alcohol during the holidays due to stress and anxiety.
If you’re not already, incorporate some of these healthy coping skills into your holiday routine.
Relaxation helps the mind feel calm. Because anxiety symptoms are often felt in the body, relaxation is beneficial. A few standard relaxation coping skills to continue during the holidays include:
- Soothing activities—like a warm bath or a cup of tea
- Deep breathing exercises
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Guided visualizations
Mindfulness helps you focus on the here-and-now. This allows you to be more aware of your feelings and surroundings, especially during times of intense stress. Use these mindfulness skills during the holidays:
- Observing and describing your surroundings
- Panic attack coping skills like the 5-4-3-2-1 technique
- Sensory awareness
The holidays are a great time to turn your attention to gratitude which complements your mindfulness practice. Gratitude requires intentionality—seeking and noticing good things and appreciating them. During your gratitude practice, be sure to savor, absorb, and pay attention to those good things.
Tap into you Feelings
Sometimes, strong feelings need to be let out. Use these activities to help you express your emotions this holiday season:
- Creating art
- Practicing assertive communication skills
When it comes to feelings, sometimes it’s easy to dwell on positive thoughts. But sometimes, positive thinking can fall into toxic positivity—the act of dismissing negative emotions and responding to pain with false hope rather than empathy. Instead, practice a positive perspective and stay away from toxic positivity. For example, toxic positivity might focus only on positive thoughts—even despite the disappointment. But a positive perspective is coping with your negative emotions through positive thinking strategies—without denying the pain.
Having fun is good for your mental health. Doing things that create satisfaction and joy are essential to giving meaning to life and preventing depression. Try some of these positive activities during the holidays:
- Participating in sports and recreational activities
- Creating something that makes you feel accomplished
- Spending time with family and friends
- Volunteering or donating to your favorite charity
When possible, simplify your to-do list and be intentional with time management. Focus on what’s important and let go of what can fall to the wayside.
Are you feeling discouraged by the weather?
In most climates, the holiday season is synonymous with dreary weather. Still, it’s good to get outside despite the frightful weather—take a walk, hike, or run. If it’s not possible to get outside, buy a lamp with healthy UV rays that mimic the sun. And if that’s not possible, position yourself near a window or bring nature (like a houseplant) inside.
Sometimes the holidays can make you feel alone or isolated. If this is the case, don’t wait for people to reach out—take the initiative to reach out to them instead. If you don’t have anyone in your life to reach out to, you can use a friendship app to make friends.
(This advice is dependent on your age, computer ability, and COVID-19 safety. Please follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to maintain your safety.)
If you’re able, check out one of these friendship apps:
- Bumble BFF
Focus On Your Self Care
When it comes to your mental health this holiday season, focus on self-care. Self-care helps you manage stress, lowers your risk of illness, and increases your energy. Even small acts of self-care can have a significant impact. Remember to establish boundaries, eat healthy, exercise, meditate, take your medication(s), and continue with your professional counseling.
Feeling overwhelmed during the holidays is normal. And if you’re feelings are too much to manage, you may need to spend some time working “in it” and healing from “it.” Negative feelings aren’t always related to an external factor. But frequently they are internal—especially if you’re feeling isolated. If you need to talk to someone, we’re here to help. Contact us today to book an appointment.