Five Mental Health Tips
to Get You Through the Holiday Season
By Dr. Cerrissa Hugie
Doctor of Nursing Practice | MyNDSpace Mental Health Services
It’s the holiday season here in the United States, and most people credit this to being the happiest time of the year; with the focus centered around vacations, family and friend gatherings, and an extra dose of holiday cheer. However, the added pressure of the season can increase levels of anxiety and depression for many of us, especially those who are living with mental illness. This season can also be triggering for those coping with financial hardship, health concerns, the loss of a loved one, job, or home, or those suffering from other untreated occurrences of trauma. Even the theme-centered festivities can often be overwhelming.
Widely referred to as the “holiday blues”, this feeling of gloomy fog is real and poses a threat to one’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
Below are some suggested tips that can help you improve your mental health during the holiday season:
1. Set Realistic Expectations – You should set reasonable parameters for yourself to avoid burnout and feelings of regret; albeit: traveling, running errands, compiling a to-do list, making and adhering to budgets, or committing to be somewhere or do something outside of your everyday routine. Plan in advance and be open to change. And when the load gets to be too extensive, don’t be afraid to delegate tasks. Also, learn to be okay with saying, “No,” to anything that increases stressors in your life. Overcommitting leads to exhaustion, frustration, and robs you of your peace of mind. Although plans may change, be realistic about your initial goals and you will find it to be easier to adjust.
2. Cope with Grief – Sometimes the trauma that presents itself after the loss of a loved one can prevent you from enjoying the holidays. Coping with the devastation is not an easy road. Instead of resisting grief, learn to lean into those emotions, while also tapping into areas that you can heal from. Try journaling, listen to comforting music, join a support group, explore spirituality, create an artistic piece that pays homage to your loved one, or start a new tradition in their honor. Even donating your time and resources to a cause can be rewarding. The possibilities for coping are plentiful. Be sure to choose healthy methods to grow through the stages of grief.
3. Set Boundaries – You have the right to prioritize your mental health every day. During the holiday season, it is even more important to remember that. Sure, we want to be there for others by offering a helping hand, committing to favors, and spreading more joy. But sometimes, we overextend ourselves trying to make others happy. To alleviate feeling like you are being pulled in several directions, without a rest stop in sight, create a roadmap that will serve as a guiding tool for mindfulness skills. This will also set boundaries that you can use to protect your emotional and mental space.
4. Practice Self-Care – Be patient with yourself. Your mind, body, and spirit should take precedence. Set aside time to relax and get adequate amounts of rest. Focus on healthier eating habits, various forms of exercise, reading, meditating, or doing something fun. Moreover, there is beauty in doing absolutely nothing. This season shouldn’t just be about what you need to do, but also about what you want to do, for yourself. Being still and embracing moments of pause, allows you space to reflect and appreciate the unstructured time. Every moment of the day presents an opportunity for self-care.
5. Ask for Help – Keep up with or seek therapy interventions. Due to the added stress of the holidays and the impacts of the pandemic, there has never been a more critical time to consider therapy from a licensed clinician. Having a good support system in your corner is awesome too, but having a therapist provides you with a compassionate lens to help sift through your thoughts and emotions. You and your therapist can work together to start a treatment plan that’s right for you.
Even with all the good tidings and cheerful greetings, the holidays can still be demanding. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling anything other than happiness. Remember to use this time to practice mindful habits that fuel healthy practices to a better lifestyle. Take time to focus on creating the best version of yourself, so that you can utilize this period to enjoy the people, places, and moments that bring you joy. Tis’ the season to prioritize and invest in your mental health.