Looking After Your Mental Health During the Holidays

Whether or not you suffer from emotional difficulties or ill mental health, Christmas can be a stressful time of year. For many of us, the holidays are full of triggers like difficult family members, over-indulgence, and financial strain, so it’s easy to become overwhelmed.

On top of this, there may be long-distance travel, increased household chores, darker mornings, and the pressure to “make merry” when we’re just not feeling the cheer. When you consider the emotional weight of all of these stresses, it’s not surprising that so many of us struggle to stay well at this time of year.

So, if you’re worried about putting on a face for the holidays and wishing for January to come around already, you’re not alone. Here are six ways to take better care of your mental health during the holidays.

Practice Mindfulness

It’s all too easy to get swept up by the materialism of Christmas. Advertising companies want us to think we are compelled to have everything perfect for the big day, and for the most part, it works. However, by literally and metaphorically “buying into” this sentiment, you will never feel satisfied.

Instead of racing through December checking off your to-do list, approach each task mindfully, and don’t forget to add in some enjoyable moments of your own. Stop and savor that mince pie, paying attention to the flavors of the fruits and spices on your tongue, or allow yourself five minutes alone to enjoy a mug of hot chocolate. Wrap your gifts with care, thinking about each recipient opening his or her gift, and what that person means to you. By making a conscious decision to approach the holidays more mindfully, we can cut through some of the stress and material expectation and focus on what matters instead.

Avoid Social Comparisons

Social media and consumer advertising can be detrimental to our self-worth all year round, but the holidays seem to ramp up the pressure to “keep up with the Joneses,” so to speak. Understand that while many families may have more money, a bigger house, or more extravagant decorations that you, making comparisons isn’t helpful, and it’s a surefire way to damage your self-esteem and deflect from your enjoyment of the festive period.

By all means, use apps like Pinterest and Instagram as inspiration, but remember that they reflect heavily edited versions of reality, and don’t spend too much time looking over your neighbor’s fence. Although that couple down the street may have an impressive wreath or a bigger tree, you never know what’s going on behind closed doors. Your wealthier friends may be feeling sad that they don’t have family nearby, or that their kids aren’t coming home this year, so they too may feel envious of your experience of the holidays. It may sound like clichéd advice, but rather than focusing on what your neighbor’s or social media inspirations have that you don’t, think about and celebrate all the things you’re grateful for this December.

Go Easy on the Alcohol

Christmas is a time for over-indulgence, but this doesn’t mean you have to consume more than you can handle. By all means, enjoy a drink or two, but think about how that third or fourth cocktail will make you feel afterwards. If you’re happy just to enjoy the moment and deal with the inevitable hangover the next day, then go ahead. Just bear in mind that too much alcohol will make you more emotional and can even lead to feelings of depression, so approach that eggnog with caution and respect your limits.

Watch Your Spending

One of the greatest stressors of Christmas is over-spending, or not having enough money to enjoy the festivities. Create a realistic budget at the start of December, including all the usual expenses like the Christmas tree, decorations, gifts and food, and don’t forget to factor in money for travel, childcare, or festive outings. Stick to your budget, and don’t resort to borrowing or credit if you can help it: resorting to these measures will only set you back in January, and it could be harmful to your long-term financial health, so resist temptation and live within your means.

If you realize you need more money to meet your commitments this year, look for ways you can earn some extra cash online in time for the holidays. You could fill out surveys, use cashback sites, or join an online casino. If you choose the latter option, only gamble what you can afford to lose, and don’t rely on this as your only moneymaking scheme. It’s also important to remember that not all online casinos are legitimate or even safe, however. Learn how to spot fake casinos and protect your hard-earned cash from scammers.

Give Yourself a Break

If you feel your stress levels rising, allow yourself some time out. Even the most positive social interactions can be exhausting, especially if you’re introverted by nature, so don’t feel guilty about breaking away for a minute of peace. Taking a break can be hard to do if you have domestic responsibilities or you’re looking after young children, but a quiet five minutes over a coffee or a quick sit down can be all you need to recharge your batteries. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend or family member to step in if you need to take some time on your own.

Say No Sometimes

Don’t be coerced into saying yes to activities you don’t have the time, energy, or motivation for. Christmas comes with enough expectations on its own, so you don’t need any more pressure put on you, especially if you’re hosting the main event. If you have a partner or a sympathetic family member, come up with a code word or “script” in advance, so they know when you’ve hit your limits, and when not to push.

The festive season is a time for joy and sharing with loved ones, but it is also full of stresses and mental challenges. Rather than simply trying to get through the holidays, take steps toward looking after your emotional wellbeing, and you’re more likely to enjoy and appreciate this time of year.

Ŧhanks to Carol Trehearn

Speak Your Mind

*

Copyright 2014 @ A Celebration of Women™ The World Hub for Women Leaders That Care