Mental Health and the Holidays
The holiday season is a joyous time of year that many people look forward to celebrating. Holiday traditions, holiday treats, time spent with family and friends, and winter vacations are just a few of the highlights. However, as stated by OnePoll, 88% of Americans experience stress during the holidays and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that around 64% of people report the holiday season makes their existing mental health conditions worse.
Experts agree that this is caused mostly by managing family commitments and all the hustle and bustle of the season. While our mental health should be tended to year-round, this time of year it is essential to make mental health a priority so that you can fully enjoy the holiday season.
How to Prioritize Your Mental Health
Whether you need help prioritizing your mental health or managing an existing mental health condition during the holidays this year, look no further than these tips from Advanced Psychiatry Associates and Alliance Health:
- Set Boundaries: One of the main reasons why the holidays can go awry is because we overcommit and exhaust ourselves. Set boundaries ahead of time so you know how much you can commit to and when you need to say no. It can be difficult to turn down invitations, but true friends and family respect your time and mental health and will understand you can only commit to so much.
- Exercise: Exercising is a great stress reliever and it will help prepare you to handle any daily stressors more effectively. Try incorporating daily exercise into your schedule to prevent holiday stress from building up. Better yet, have everyone in the household join in on daily physical activity to give everyone a mood boost!
- Accept Imperfections: Expectations around the holiday season are high for hosting the best gathering, giving the best present or feeling the happiest during this time of year. High expectations are often was causes a spiral of stress and anxiety. This year, accept that imperfections are normal and instead, focus on enjoying the little moments of joy and soaking up the time you have with family and friends.
- Create a Budget: Something that can greatly contribute to holiday stress is money. Many aspects of the holiday season revolve around buying gifts, going out to eat more, buying more food or beverages for gatherings and going to events or activities that cost money. It’s helpful to set a budget ahead of time so you can better plan for the season and avoid causing yourself extra stress.
- Dedicate Self-Care Time: You may think “self-care” during the holiday season is selfish, however, it is essential for your mental health. Take the dog for a long walk, take a bath, turn in early to read a few chapters in your book, whatever helps you decompress and clear your mind. Check out our previous blog post for more information on self-care during the holidays!
- Practice Meditation: Deep breathing, yoga, or meditation can be helpful during times when you feel overwhelmed or overextended. Taking even just a few moments to to focus on being present allows you to clear your head, push aside any tension you may feel in your body, and gives your brain some time to slow down.
- Get Enough Sleep: Sleep deprivation drastically increases any feelings of stress and anxiety. You need 7-8 hours of sleep every night in order for your body and mind to rejuvenate, which is especially important during the busy holiday season.
- Ask for Help: Be mindful of your stress levels and emotions and be aware of when you are getting overwhelmed. If you do feel overwhelmed, reach out and ask for help. It’s effective to speak with a person you trust, like a friend, family member or your therapist, about your current feelings. You’ll discover that feeling down or stressed during the holiday season is normal, and you can discuss tools to overcome the negative feelings.