For some, Merry Christmas can sound like an impossible wish. Yes, the holidays can be a time of celebration, togetherness, and relaxation, but they can easily turn into a season of chaos, stress, and overload. Here are some steps to help you enjoy this holiday season and keep your mental health in check.
Whether it is a party, shopping, decorating, or traveling, having a plan will help prevent stress. Start with a budget that is realistic and won’t strain you financially. The internet is filled with ideas for recipes, homemade gifts, and baked goods that are thoughtful and won’t break the bank. Once you have your budget, make a checklist of what you need to do or purchase to accomplish each task. Finally, make a calendar and include when each checklist item needs to be completed—when to buy plane tickets, when to order gifts, when to wrap presents, when to start holiday baking, etc. Budgeting and organization will help keep things doable and help you feel less overwhelmed.
Time with family can be enjoyable and fun, but it can also be frustrating and difficult. If you struggle with certain family members, it is helpful to set realistic boundaries from the outset. Perhaps that means staying at a hotel instead of at a family member’s home or choosing one family to see during the holidays instead of trying to visit them all. Take care not to try to please everyone at the expense of your own well-being. When it happens that you must spend time with a difficult person, be as kind as possible, take a break when needed, and try to set your differences aside and consider that they may also be feeling extra stress.
With all the treats and additional stress readily available during the holidays, it can be tempting to overindulge. It is important for your mental state that you don’t throw your personal health goals out the window. Keeping your physical strength and energy up can be very helpful in combating stress and emotional fatigue. Find a way to stay active—even a short walk or snowball fight with the kids can be enough to increase your heart rate and release some helpful endorphins. Allow yourself some treats, but don’t go overboard. Your diet can greatly affect your attitude, and you’ll feel better when the holidays are done if you kept your waistline in check.
For some, the holidays are an especially lonely time. Whether you have lost loved ones or are far away from family and friends, the feelings can be magnified in the holiday season. If you know that this is a hard season for you, take steps beforehand to help yourself. Find something to do like joining a group or volunteering at a charity. Seek help—meet with a counselor before the holidays, contact friends who can call and offer encouragement and support, and take medications as prescribed. Have someone you can reach out to if you start to feel anxious, isolated, or depressed.
It is a common practice to spend time at the end of the year in reflection. As it happens, self-reflection can also be a helpful stress reliever. Take time to remember the things that went well or that you did well this past year. Think about the things you have that you are most grateful for. Identify your core strengths and areas of growth over the past year; mentally review the times you used them or that they were evident.
Use this exercise to make a plan for the next year—How would you like to use your strengths? Where would you like to see growth? To whom can you express gratitude? It can be helpful to write these thoughts down and review and/or add to them throughout the year. Next year, compare notes and learn what changed or improved. Whatever the holiday season looks like for you, there is likely at least one tip here that you can use to make it better. Don’t sacrifice your mental health this year, but take action to monitor it. That may include talking to a professional. At The Woman’s Clinic, your physician wants to hear about how you feel emotionally as well as physically and offer tips on how to manage or treat it. You can make an appointment with us online and visit us at our Madison or Jackson locations.