The holidays bring a string of values and emotions to many: thanksgiving, love, kindness, generosity, and wonder. But, unfortunately, to some, it also brings stress in the form of financial budgets, gift-giving, and unavoidable toxic extended family members.
Your mental wellness is an integral part of your overall health. Yet, people spend three months in a stressful fight or flight response to the holidays every year. Make this season different. Enjoy the holidays for the real reason we celebrate: Christ’s birth.
Why mental wellness is important.
Mental wellness is essential for how you process thoughts and emotions. It is this emotional state that determines your emotional resiliency. Do you bounce back after disappointments? Do crises and trauma throw you so far from normal life that you struggle to get back on track?
How you manage stressors affects your mental and physical health. Your confidence and self-esteem are connected to how you feel and see yourself. To protect your mental well-being, you should take an approach that includes physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects.
If your mental health is poor, you will struggle to control your emotions and behaviors. Your thinking may become distorted, and you might lose a sense of empathy toward others. Your chances of developing a mental health condition dramatically increase as your mental wellness decreases.
If you believe you need help, especially during the holidays, reach out to a counselor today. It is not too late to seek treatment for poor mental health.
Tips for protecting your mental wellness.
You may want to consider the services of a Christian counselor if you worry about how family gatherings and holiday stress will impact your mental wellness. However, there are things you can do to better prepare for the holidays.
Commit to trying one new task a week and tweaking it as you go. Adapt these mental wellness tips to work for you and your schedule.
Take time for you this season.
Fall parties, costume parades, Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving celebrations, Christmas concerts and dance recitals, Christmas family gatherings, New Year parties, and get-togethers are enough to keep your schedule jam-packed. Add in shopping, wrapping, cooking, and baking, and there does not seem to be enough time in the day.
If this sounds like your schedule, then you need to take a step back and take time for yourself this season. You do not need to attend every party you are invited to yearly. Instead, choose the events that are the most important to you. Maybe that is your daughter’s annual Christmas concert and the tree lighting ceremony you attend with your aging mother. Choose the events that are the most meaningful this year.
Is there a way you can skip the cookie baking this year? If the activity stresses you, purchase store-bought cookies or make fewer delectables. Then, spend that time doing something you love instead.
Get better quality sleep.
If you want to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed during the holidays and not irritable to everyone who smiles at you, you must focus on your quality of sleep. Too many people fall asleep watching television or using their devices. The blue light emitted from these devices interferes with restful sleep. As a result, you are more likely to wake up during the night and have a more challenging time falling back to sleep.
Commit to turning off all devices, including the television, at least an hour before bed. Instead, do something relaxing to unwind, like reading, soaking in the tub, listening to music, or reflecting in your journal.
Enjoy your exercise.
One way to burn off daily frustrations is to exercise. But exercise does not have to be an hour-long treadmill session. Instead, choose a fun activity you can stick with over the holidays. Can you wake up fifteen to thirty minutes earlier? There are plenty of free videos online that you can follow, such as walking at home, dancing, yoga, Pilates, weightlifting, and circuit training.
If you prefer to head outdoors, make it fun. Walk or jog with a friend or use dumbbells or ankle weights for added resistance. Set new personal records with weight or distance. Challenge yourself to five days without missing an exercise session. Do you want an added challenge? Vary your workouts and avoid repeating an activity during the same week.
Since the holidays arrive every year, plan for the events you wish to attend. If there is a family gathering in which a strained relationship exists, you can circumvent the exposure by preparing what you will say or do.
For example, if you have an unavoidable Christmas Eve dinner at your grandmother’s home with an aunt who constantly puts you down, you can prepare by practicing what you will say to her if she acts that way toward you. You can also enlist the help of other family members. Knowing how to be firm, but kind is an invaluable tool. In addition, a counselor can help you create boundaries ahead of family gatherings.
Finances are a prickly spot during the holidays, with many people working overtime to buy gifts. This can add to an already stressful situation. Ideally, prepare by setting aside a specific amount from every paycheck into a savings account for Christmas. Then, depending on your employer, you can allot money straight from your direct deposit into the special account.
If you cannot save throughout the year, consider assigning a dollar amount and gift for everyone on a list before shopping. Keep in mind that you will need wrapping paper and other decorations. To make budgeting work, you will need to stick to the amounts you have allotted. Make sure your spouse is on board if you share a bank account. It may seem like budgeting is restrictive, but it gives you the freedom to plan.
Choose healthy stress relievers.
Sometimes people turn to activities that temporarily relieve the holiday stressors but cause problems later. Overconsuming alcohol, abusing prescription medication, or finding comfort in food can all lead down a dangerous path.
It would be best if you had healthy stress relievers that you could employ throughout the holidays. What are some of your favorite things to do? How about playing a game with your children or solo? What about learning how to knit, crochet, or paint pictures with friends? If you prefer outdoor activities and the weather cooperates, take a walk, bicycle, or play mini-golf.
Keep calm and carry on at family gatherings.
Just as preparing ahead can help you set boundaries before you run into that toxic aunt at your grandmother’s Christmas Eve dinner, managing your emotions can make family gatherings smoother. You cannot control what others say or do, but you do control your feelings and behaviors. Your reaction to a comment can change the atmosphere at a gathering.
Reacting to a negative person gives control to that person. By learning how to manage your thoughts and emotions, you are in control of your resulting behavior. For example, if you need to leave a room to catch your breath, then do that, but refocus on why you are there. You are most likely attending the gathering to see people you love.
Keep calm and carry on at family gatherings by rising above petty comments or actions. You have every right to enjoy the holidays. Do not allow others to ruin it for you.
Supercharging your mental health over the holidays.
Are you worried about how you will balance the holidays this year without losing your mind? Give our office a call today to schedule an appointment with a counselor. Your counselor specializes in mental wellness and can help you protect your mental health through the holidays and beyond.
“Coffee and Christmas”, Courtesy of Michelle, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Wreath”, Courtesy of Toni Cuenca, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Wrapping Gifts”, Courtesy of Roberto Nickson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Thanksful”, Courtesy of Pro Church Media, Unsplash.com, CC0 License