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Managing Your Mental Health During the Holidays

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The holidays often bring the happiness of gathering with close family and friends. We imagine exchanging gifts, delicious meals, and lots of time spent connecting with others. However, for some people this time of year can be challenging, especially if there are difficult relationships to manage, recent losses, and/or financial concerns. Additionally, many people spend the holidays alone and experience isolation and sadness. Therefore, managing mood and anxiety becomes an important endeavor to make sure you survive the holidays and find moments of joy.

If you find yourself struggling with the holidays or know of someone who is, here are some tips to help.  

Go for a walk

o   If large gatherings are overwhelming for you, step outside and go for a walk. The fresh air, open space, and movement all help to improve your mood and/or reduce anxiety.

o   If you are alone for the holiday, getting outside and connecting with nature on a walk can help alleviate loneliness.

o   If you have mobility issues, breathing fresh air and notice your surroundings can be helpful.

Volunteer

o   Helping others in need connects you to the generosity of the holidays. It will also help you feel less alone and isolated.

Practice Gratitude

o   Focus on all the people and things for which you are grateful. Research has shown that practicing gratitude increases happiness and life satisfaction, decreases materialism, and improves physical health.

Increase self-care

o   Self-care might mean saying no to holiday events that you do not want to attend or saying yes to the ones that will bring happiness and connection.

o   Do kind things for yourself like buy a healthy dinner instead of cooking, ask friends or family for help with big tasks, set limits on how you spend your time and money, and take time out of your day for an extra-long hot shower, short walk, or time playing with kids or pets.

o   If you’ve had a loss that makes enjoying the holidays difficult, take time to grieve as a form of self-care. Allowing yourself the time and space to grieve honors the loss and is important in your bereavement process.  The holidays are not always “merry and bright,” and it’s alright that you feel sadness at this time of year.

Set healthy boundaries

o   The holidays sometimes result in us having to connect with people with whom we do not have a positive relationship, or whom drain our energy, lower mood, and increase anxiety. If you can avoid distressful situations, that is best. However, if you find yourself near a person such as this, do your best to set healthy boundaries in a direct, calm, and simple way.

o   Be clear in what your needs are going into each situation, and then work to either meet those needs yourself, or ask for assistance from others.

o   Say No. You do not owe anyone an explanation for your actions. If they push the issue, state “no” again and add, “thank you for understanding.”

o   Create physical space between you and the person. Say no to interactions with him/her by excusing yourself for a trip to the restroom or outside.

In general, take notice of your needs, and do your best to meet them. The more you take care of yourself, the more likely you will find some moments of joy. Wishing you well at the holidays and always!