The holiday season brings joy to many. But for some, it also brings stress and anxiety. High expectations, financial pressure, family issues, loneliness, and grief over lost loved ones can combine to undermine our mental health. However, there are effective strategies we can deploy to better our outlook and cope effectively during this turbulent time.
Mindfulness means living consciously in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Being mindful counters the tendency to catastrophize and promotes a state of tranquility. To cultivate mindfulness during the holidays, make time for centering practices like meditating, journaling, spending a few moments focusing on your breathing, or observing your thoughts in a detached manner.
Getting out in nature and leaving technology behind also bolsters mindfulness. Stay conscious of your emotions and reactions over the holidays. When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, take a break to calm your nervous system before reacting. Making mindfulness a priority provides mental space from demanding holiday dynamics.
Set Realistic Expectations
The idealized holiday scenes depicted in media set us up for disappointment, guilt, frustration, and even depression when our holidays fail to measure up. Perfection does not exist. Challenges and disappointments are inevitable no matter our planning and effort. Setting realistic expectations helps buffer against becoming despondent when things go awry.
Permit yourself to enjoy simpler celebrations if time or money does not permit elaborate ones. Let go of beliefs that the holidays must be magical. Accept that family clashes or logistical problems will likely occur despite our best intentions. Setting realistic expectations is key to avoiding spiraling when faced with holiday stresses.
Attending to basic self-care bolsters mental well-being and resilience in handling holiday turbulence. Be vigilant about getting sufficient sleep rather than pushing your limits of overstimulation since burnout leaves you vulnerable when emotional triggers arise. Eat nutritious comfort foods but avoid overindulging in sweets which can destabilize your mood.
Incorporate stress-reducers like yoga, deep breathing, enjoyable hobbies, or soothing music. Treat yourself minimally with simple pleasures. Rejuvenate through activities unrelated to holiday preparations. Schedule relaxing alone time between social gatherings. Listen to your needs and lovingly attend to yourself even amidst the whirlwind of holiday busyness. Make self-care a priority, not a luxury.
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Set Healthy Boundaries
Stress breeds anxiety, resentment, and even panic attacks when we overextend ourselves out of guilt or people pleasing. Healthy boundaries empower you to balance caring for others with caring for yourself. Define what you genuinely have to give materially, physically, and emotionally without compromising your wellbeing.
Communicate your limits openly rather than silently seething when imposed upon you. Say no without apologies when maintaining sanity requires declining additional responsibilities. Be willing to let go of traditions that no longer fit your circumstances, priorities, or budget. Protect time for people and practices that nurture you spiritually. The holidays become more enjoyable for all parties when you set boundaries honoring your needs.
Holiday blues often accompany concentrating on stressful obligations, family complications, conflicts, or losses rather than counting our blessings. Make conscious space for gratitude. Appreciate loving relationships, comforts you easily take for granted, and simple joys that mean more than lavish commercialism. Write thank you notes to cherished people you are grateful for.
Tell loved ones directly what you appreciate about them. Keep a gratitude journal documenting daily things large and small that lift your spirit. Concentrating on abundance rather than lack counteracts the tendency to fixate on holiday season negatives that undermine your mood and outlook. Regular gratitude practice conditions your brain to perceive positives more readily lowering the risk of anxiety and depression.
Generosity and contributing to causes bigger than ourselves are medicinal for the soul and psychological health. The holidays present abundant opportunities to give back formally through volunteering or donating to charities or informally through random acts of kindness.
Serve meals at a shelter, donate gifts for needy children, or send cards to hospitalized veterans. Shovel a disabled neighbours' driveway, babysit for busy parents, or help elderly relatives organize paperwork. Spontaneous good deeds spread holiday cheer all around.
Adapt Traditions Thoughtfully
Loved ones pass on leaving permanent voids and cherished traditions that can invoke heartache without their presence. Allow yourself to grieve losses while gently adapting customs to evolving circumstances and needs. Discuss openly with other grieving family members how to appropriately memorialize lost loved ones. Light candles, display photos, or prepare deceased relatives’ signature dishes to incorporate warm remembrances into your celebrations.
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There are ample ways of protecting our mental health during the emotionally charged holiday season with some conscious planning and priority. Concentrating on self-care ensures we have ample inner resources to weather high stress. Maintaining healthy boundaries and realistic expectations helps minimize feeling embattled. Adapting traditions with sensitivity as families change through the years can temper holiday blues. With some mindful strategies, we can harness this spirited season to lift our spirits rather than undermine our peace. May you find joy, restoration, and light this holiday time.