The holidays can be a time of perpetual joy, faith and connection. However, there are many ways our mental health can worsen during this time. There’s the stress of buying gifts and attending family gatherings. The feeling of loss and nostalgia for those who are no longer with us. And the last two years during the pandemic, a lot of us are feeling more isolated and distanced than ever. But there is hope. You can manage your mental health, stay connected, and lean into the holiday spirit with the following reminders.
- Reset routine: Think about your daily routine. What’s working for you and where can you improve? Keep in mind that your health practices such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and getting restful sleep are all beneficial to your mental health.
- Boost brain power: Have you ever wanted to learn something new? Maybe it’s yoga, cooking a gourmet meal, or learning a musical instrument. Even 5-10 minutes per day of practicing a new skill or hobby can boost your mental and emotional health and take your mind off any stresses of the season.
- Slow down: The way we gather and celebrate may have changed, but it has also forced us to slow down and take stock of our lives. Allow yourself to move at a slower pace to be more present and mindful of the holiday season. What or who are you grateful for? What memories or events bring you joy this time of year? Writing these things out in a journal or on a notepad and seeing them will help.
- Adjust traditions: The way we come together has changed, but it can be an opportunity to adapt rather than to be upset for how the holidays “should be.” How does this time of year make you feel? Share this with your family (along with their feelings) to see where new traditions can align.
- Reach out: We can still be connected while being apart. Keep connected to your loved ones by text, phone or video call, or writing a letter or holiday card. Let them know you’re thinking of them, share how you’re celebrating, and let them know you’ll always be there.
It’s important to recognize that having a mixed bag of emotions during the holiday season is normal and that existent mental health issues can worsen due to holiday stresses. We all may need extra help this holiday season and that’s okay. The following are signs that professional guidance may be necessary:
- Fear and worry
- Fatigue, sleep changes
- Irritability, mood changes
- Impulsive or risky behavior
- Worsening chronic health issues
- Worsening mental health issues (such as anxiety and depression) • Increase in substance use (such as alcohol, drugs and smoking)
Sources: hhs.gov, usatoday.com, mayoclinic.org, clevelandclinic.org, nm.org