The holiday season can be a costly one when it comes to mental health. In addition to the daily responsibilities of adult life, many squeeze in time to bake, shop, or attend the multitude of holiday gatherings. Alternatively, for those who are already struggling mentally, the season may bring the added weight and reminder of the loss, trauma or overwhelm they battle day to day.
Whether you are a holiday fanatic, or someone for whom the season brings a more sober mood, here are 5 ways to protect your mental health this holiday season.
# 1 . Forget about the Jonses
Feeling pressure to keep up? Comparing yourself to others is a highway to depression and holiday misery. Instead, take time to be grateful for the things you appreciate and have in your own life. Plan, buy and socialise in a way that works for you and your family.
#2. Avoid giving out of obligation
Giving out of a sense of obligation (or because you were asked for the millionth time) is not a reason to give and can lead to feelings of resentment and frustration. Consider in advance how you might give in a way that is meaningful for you. Perhaps you might donate your time to a community service organisation, or help your children create care packages for families in need. Giving doesn’t need to come from your pocketbook to come from your heart!
#3. Slow down
Between January and March, therapists see a significant increase in the number of individuals seeking therapeutic support for concerns of depression or anxiety despite having no prior history. For many, this can be attributed to a natural correction in their energy output. The toll of the increased activity between Halloween and the New Year shows up when things quiet down, leading to low mood, fatigue and burnout. This can be avoided by pacing yourself and ensuring time for consistent self care as you move through the holiday season.
#4. Say “No, Thanks!”
Stressed about hosting the In-Laws? Dreading the work Christmas party? Don’t spend your energy and time doing things you won’t find fulfilling. Instead, choose to participate in activities that will allow you to decompress and enjoy the holidays. Make a DON’T DO list as a family and stick to it as closely as possible. Note: This may require some tough conversations and negotiations with family or friends but the goal is to avoid giving out of obligation (remember #2) and this includes your time and energy.
#5. Allow Yourself to Feel
Even if the holiday season is a joyous occasion for you and yours, take time to check in on your own thoughts and feelings.The end of the year can be a great time to reflect on everything you have been through this year and acknowledge the things you have yet to overcome. Try not to distract yourself from the pain of loss,hurt or disappointment. Instead, acknowledge the difficulties you have faced and appreciate that even unpleasant emotions are valid. Burying your emotions only causes them to amplify.
It is the “have-tos” that make the holidays stressful and overwhelming. To protect your mental health, aim to make this holiday season one of relaxation and a time to restore your mind, body and relationships.
Do you have tips on how to make the most of the holidays? We want to hear them! Join our
BSCP Mental Health Resource Group and let us know how you make your holidays mentally merry!
Bonnie J. Skinner, MEd, CCC, RP