Goodbye Holiday Blues: 3 practical ways to stay mentally healthy during the holidays
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Hmm, sometimes the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can definitely feel not so wonderful.
The time between Thanksgiving and the New Year can pull and stretch even the best of us. Travel, parties, interesting family dynamics, school plays, finances, and more can magnify issues we can generally manage.
Plus, when you add seasonal depression and health issues that can peak ahead during this time of the year, the demands of the holiday season can create some unhealthy mental space.
Friend, are you ready to can back the holiday season and choose to stay mentally healthy?
If you said yes, then let’s talk about some practical steps you can take to kick holiday blues to the curb this year.
Check your mental health inventory
As soon as November knocks on the door and daylight shifts, we can easily lose track of our mental health. Sadly, we often don’t realize we are at our wit’s end until we have been pushed too far. We start snapping, fussing, and just become a pain to be around. (Only me??). We can end up missing all that is wonderful and beautiful about this time of the year.
So, how do you take inventory of our mental health?
- Be aware of your triggers: What makes you feel stressed, irritated, or overwhelmed? What happens to your body? How do you act out?
- Check your expectations: How can you adjust your expectations and set realistic goals during the season?
- Make a list: Keep up with all of your commitments. Where have you committed your time and energy? Where can you let things go?
- Identify how you feel: When you think of going home for the holidays or being around particular people, how do you feel? Does your body get tight? Do you start to clench your teeth? Do you begin to smile? Taking time to acknowledge how you truly feel about being around people and events ahead of time can help you respond and process in healthy ways.
- Accept your unhealthy behaviors: If you want to protect your mental health, it’s important to acknowledge you have unhealthy, sometimes toxic behaviors. How you respond to a hectic holiday season is entirely up to YOU. You will not be able to change behavior you are not willing to acknowledge.
Give yourself permission to have fun
Lovely, can we agree to give up perfectionism to make room for good ole’ fashioned fun. Resist the urge to redecorate the tree because your kids didn’t make it Pinterest pretty. Let go of the idea you are responsible for making the holidays a “perfect.” Instead, make up your mind to let the season be wrapped in creating moments that matter.
How can you embrace fun to stay mentally healthy?
- Intentionally schedule time for fun: If making time for fun is a challenge for you, be sure to put it on the calendar. Carve out time for making cookies or going for rides to look at Christmas lights.
- Enjoy doing something you love: What makes you happy during the holiday season? Is it visiting with friends or ice skating? Maybe it’s cooking cookies for your neighbors? Or do you look forward to volunteering at the nursing home each year? Whatever your fun thing may be, be sure to make time for it in your busy schedule.
- Try something new: It’s okay to create new traditions, try new foods, and celebrate the holiday season in a new way. What would happen if someone else cooked the meal? What would happen if you put up the Christmas tree early because it makes you happy? What would happen if you decide to go on a vacation instead of staying home for the holidays? Friend, you can do your holidays differently.
- Schedule a do-nothing day: Plan at least one day during the holidays where you have nothing planned. Just let the day unfold. Wanna go for a walk, go. Wanna stay in pjs all day, drink hot chocolate and watch Hallmark movies, do it. Every moment of every day doesn’t need a well thought out plan to be memorable.
Stay consistent with your healthy habits
Although the holiday season can be busy, stay consistent to your healthy habits. During the season, we can all sacrifice our habits to squeeze in extra room for the one more. You know, one more party, one more gift exchange, one more trip, one more visit. Have you been there? Instead of throwing out our healthy habits, protect the time, and build it into your schedule.
So what are some healthy habits important to maintain?
- Stay in therapy: You may be tempted to cancel your sessions to make space for family or work activities, but stay consistent. Holiday times can bring up all sorts of unhealthy emotions and habits.
- Keep working out: During the holidays, our food intake goes up, and most people gain anywhere between 5-10 extra pounds. We might be busy, but we are not healthy. Continue to carve out time for 30 minutes of exercise. Get outside for a walk. Go for a bike ride.
- Rest: Unfortunately, rest also becomes one of the areas we sacrifice during the holiday season. Whether we are up taking care of sick kids (because it’s that time of year—germs are everywhere), coming home late from a party, or staying up late to get those last-minute goals crushed, rest can one of the first areas we sacrifice. Now, rest is more than sleep. It’s putting the phone down. It’s saying no. It’s allowing your mind, body, and spirit rest—no hustle.
- Practice gratefulness: Feeling sad, lonely, and stressed are all real emotions during this season. Maybe you miss a loved one. Maybe your spouse is deployed. Perhaps your finances are tight. If we are not careful, we can focus more on what we don’t have that we miss all we do have. We focus on our lack instead of our blessings. Practicing gratitude during the holiday season helps reframe our thinking. Choose an attitude of gratitude.
Lovely, the holiday season doesn’t banish our reasons for feeling sadness, frustration, or anxiety. You have a right to take care of yourself, a right to feel the mixed emotions that can come during the holiday season, and a right to enjoy your holiday even if it looks a little differently. Choosing to stay mentally healthy during the holidays doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does mean we have to be consistent. Checking our mental health inventory, permitting ourselves to have fun, and staying consistent with our healthy habits can help us to enjoy the beauty of the holiday season. If you find yourself struggling more this season, seek help. Reach out to a mental health professional to help you. You can do this!
Cheering you on,