The holidays aren’t always all happiness and cheer. What’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year is anything but for some of us. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Years are squeezed into 5 short weeks. Entertaining, shopping, decorating, baking, and cleaning can be big sources of stress for anyone, and for people with mental health conditions, stress can exacerbate symptoms.
Holidays are the season of giving, but this year remember to be kind to yourself, as well as to others.
- Prioritize self-care. Figure out what self-care routines will help you through the holidays. Maybe curling up with a cup of tea and a good book will chill you out, or perhaps you’d be centered by an afternoon catnap. Make whatever activity makes you feel better a non-negotiable part of your holiday plan.
- Avoid family conflict. Whatever issues you may have with your family don’t disappear just because it’s a holiday. If you find yourself engaged in an unravelling situation, slip away and lend a hand in the kitchen or play with the kids instead.
- Take a walk. Exercise is a mood booster, so a brisk walk around the neighborhood will calm you down and have the added benefit of burning off some of the calories from the rich holiday foods. A walk during daylight hours also gets you some much needed sun exposure.
- The holidays aren’t all about the presents. Gifts aren’t the main attraction of the holidays, good times with your loved ones are, so don’t let holiday spending break the bank and your spirit. A gift exchange like a secret Santa or a Yankee swap is a fun, lower cost alternative to buying presents for the whole clan. A swap may soon become a new favorite tradition, and your wallet will thank you. For whatever you do need to buy, online shopping is a low-stress alternative to the crazy crowds at the mall.
- Overindulgence breeds guilt later on. Your motto should be everything in moderation when it comes to food. One piece of pie is okay, but don’t go overboard with 3. Avoid alcohol, especially if you’ve had problems with it in the past.
- Fun above perfection. A burnt turkey, underwhelming decorations, or a lackluster gift shouldn’t ruin the whole season. Be easy on yourself! The perfect holiday is one where you and your family are happy and healthy. Be realistic about your expectations for the holidays.
- Maintain your schedule. There’s a lot going on, but try not to mess up your sleep schedule. Go ahead and leave a party early to get to bed on time. If medication is part of your treatment plan set extra alarms or reminders to make sure you take your medications as prescribed even when things get hectic.
- It’s okay to sit out on holiday gatherings. If an event is only going to make you miserable, don’t go. Do whatever you have to do to have a happy and healthy holiday season. If that means spending a quiet night in or retreating to a sunny beach for the holidays instead of attending the big, stressful family celebration, that’s okay! Don’t isolate yourself, though. Spend time with the most supportive people you know, friend or family.
If you or a loved one is living with a mental illness like depression, anxiety, bipolar depression, or schizophrenia, call 1-877-SEGAL-88 or click here to learn more about out enrolling studies.
Sources: Mental Health America of Wisconsin, NAMI Blog