As the holidays are drawing near, it is important to prioritize your mental health. The season can bring upon feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, and depressed. These effects from the holidays can happen to anyone at any age. Here are some tips to prevent or lessen holiday depression, anxiety and stress.
The first step in creating a budget is to document what you spend. If you did that already last year, take a look at how much you spent on Christmas gifts. Think about where can you cut back this year and set a goal amount for your Christmas fund and use your Christmas budget to help you get there! You’ll be amazed at how organized you’ll feel and your bank account will thank you.
2) Set boundaries with your family
By setting boundaries, you’re able to focus on the real meaning of the holidays: gratitude, spiritual traditions and family togetherness. Setting boundaries starts with self-awareness. This requires checking in with yourself every day and establishing a clear sense of whether you want to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to all of the invitations. Setting boundaries early on will allow you to enjoy the time you do spend with your family more.
3) Be active
Staying physically active during the holidays will help your emotional well-being. Create a workout plan and try to stick with it. Even if you have an unexpected holiday event come up, remember - it is one night, not all season. Avoid the all or nothing attitude by throwing a workout routine away because one night derailed your plans. On the days that you can’t workout, remember to get enough sleep, stay hydrated and try to snack on some healthy food when possible.
4) Don’t take on too much
While the holidays are a time of celebration, it s also a time that creates a lot of added work. There’s gift shopping, sending cards, arranging travel, getting ready for out-of-town guests, baking cookies, and the list goes on. For those of us who take on the responsibility of making the holidays special for others, it can lead to some extra stress. You may not be able to escape all your added responsibilities, but you can make your life a little easier. Saying ‘no’ can be hard, but you can scale back your activities.
5) Don’t isolate yourself
Empty nesters, the elderly and individuals who are grieving may be particularly vulnerable to feelings of loneliness during the holidays. The best way to deal with loneliness is to override your instinct to isolate. Loneliness feeds on itself. Instead, attend a holiday celebration, call a close friend, go out for coffee, or shop for gifts. You may not want to do these things, but you will thank yourself after.
6) Let yourself grieve
Christmas music, holiday parties, and festive decorations that were meant to bring joy, can serve as painful reminders of loss for many people. The holidays can bring about a wide range of emotions for those grieving. You might feel joy, guilt, and sadness all within a few minutes. Allow yourself to feel those emotions without judging yourself or thinking you should be happy or you shouldn't be laughing. You can even try to create a special way to memorialize the person you've lost, whether you light a candle every night or eat your loved one's favorite food.
7) Track your symptoms
If you know that the holidays tend to have an effect on your mental health, try to keep track of your symptoms, mood, sleep patterns, and experiences with medications. Keeping track of this information can assist you in managing your needs by providing you with a clearer picture of any patterns that are happening. Mood charting can be done in a journal or even plain paper. Calendars also make great charts, allowing you to simply add a few words for each date. There are even apps available for charting moods and anxiety.
8) Reflect on the past year
As you end this new year and move on to the next, take some time to review, to contemplate, to meditate. Here are some questions to help you reflect:
What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
What was an unexpected joy this past year?
What was an unexpected obstacle?
Pick three words to describe this past year.
While the holidays can be a stressful time, take the time to make your mental health a priority. This will help you make the most out of your time with family and friends and make your experiences more enjoyable. If you know that you have a hard time during the holidays, try using talk therapy as a tool to help you get through the season. Click here to be paired with a talk therapist.