The Holidays and Your Mental Health

For many individuals the holidays are not The most wonderful time of the year…… The holiday season can stir up a lot of emotions and pain associated with grief, relationship problems, loneliness, stress, financial problems, family conflict, and well the list can go on and on. The holidays tend to amplify many feelings, especially the negative ones. How can you manage the holiday season and your mental health??? Here are some thoughts and tips:

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Limit time with or avoid toxic people: You do not have to spend holidays with people who are toxic, no other explanation is needed here! If you feel an obligation to a toxic family member, limit your time with him or her. Maybe schedule a visit with another relative right after or before your visit with your difficult relative. This season the Coronavirus has given us all a great excuse to avoid people; you can also apply this to people who are bad for you too! If you feel guilty about not seeing a family member who is toxic, send them a nice letter in a Christmas card, a small gift, or make a donation in their name to charity. It does not matter what time of year it is, you are always entitled to protect yourself and surround yourself with healthy people.

Practice setting boundaries: During the holiday season, we all have to set limits. Think of ways you can perfect the art of saying “No” during the holiday season. This can be with finances, gift giving, social activities, or at work.  If you can’t do something during the holidays for whatever reason, you can just say “No”. You do not need to apologize, explain, or justify your reason. If “No” feels too harsh you can try something softer like, “I would love to but I can’t”. Avoid overextending yourself and putting yourself in stressful situations this holiday season.

Focus on your values: What does the holiday season mean to you? Are the holidays about religion, spirituality, family, giving back, or celebrating? Do not feel pressure to conform to others’ traditions around the holidays. Take some time to reflect on the meaning of the holiday season and allow your holiday celebrations to focus on what is important to you.

Take time to relax: Schedule down time during the holiday season. It is important to have some time to slow down, enjoy a peppermint hot chocolate or gingerbread chai hot tea, and just relax. Do not pack your schedule during the holiday season. You will only feel more stressed.

Recognize your feelings: It is okay if you are sad, angry or anxious this holiday season for whatever reason. Practice saying; “I feel ______ because ______” multiple times a day. This is a way of checking in with yourself.  Remember you can be sad and still find joy or happiness during the holiday season. For example, maybe you are sad because your mother is very sick in the hospital but you can still take time, appreciate, and find joy in things like the festive lights, some homemade cookies, or a holiday card from your old neighbor.  You can be sad and still have moments of joy, peace, and hope. Do not feel guilty about positive feelings during the holidays if you are going through some tough stuff, it is always okay to embrace happiness. Emotions are temporary and they come and go. Remind yourself of that too.

Practice self-care: Put your name on your holiday gift list and buy yourself a nice present! Take time to show yourself kindness and compassion during this busy and stressful season. You can take a walk around your neighborhood and look at the decorations, meditate to some instrumental holiday music, journal about your favorite holiday memories, take a warm bubble bath and light a balsam and fir candle, enjoy some winter apple scented hand cream, or schedule a holiday massage. Do whatever is comforting to you. Often we focus on giving and doing for everyone else around the holidays and we neglect ourselves. Take time for you and practice self-care this holiday season.  Self- care is not selfish, it is essential! 

Clean out your emotional closet: 2021 is almost here, a new year brings new challenges and goals but we still have to clean out our emotional closet and wrap up some mental health goals. What emotional baggage do you need to let go? What negative feelings do you need to release?  What conversations do you need to have? Do you need to apologize to anyone? Are you ready to forgive anyone? How has your mental health been this year? What do you need to reflect on? 

Do something nice:  Giving back, volunteering, and helping others is a great way to feel good on the inside. With the pandemic, this may be more challenging this holiday season but you can still do a lot of good. You can send holiday cards to a local nursing home, ask your local school if any children are in need of gifts and buy a student something special, go through your closet and donate clothes, make a donation to your favorite charity or send a gift card to a neighbor in need. 

Wishing you love, joy, peace, and good mental health this holiday season.

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