Mental Health Doesn’t Take a Vacation: A simple guide to surviving the Holidays

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The Holidays usually bring families together, as we take a well-deserved break from our busy lives. Unfortunately, they are also a major source of stress due to financial pressure, unrealistic expectations, grief, family drama, poor diet, etc. For some – mostly health professionals, police officers and firefighters, retail workers, IT workforce, and waiters and waitresses – the Holidays are synonym of more work (see our recent article on Working on Thanksgiving).  

Practicing self-care becomes essential for surviving the Holidays. Not only will self-care reduce stress, but it will also force you to slow down, breath, and enjoy the present. We have put together a series of 10 useful tips to help you navigate around the stress of the Holidays :

1.      Moderation is your motto

To practice self-care efficiently, you need to know your boundaries and define them well before diving into the Holidays. You are what you eat, what you sleep, and what you do; and in everything you do, moderation is key. Try to control and limit your alcohol, and high fat and sugary food intake. The Huffington Post offers excellent moderation tips for a healthy holiday season.

2.      Pick and choose

Time is precious and so is your mental health. Try to choose activities and gatherings that bring you the most fulfillment and joy, and avoid those that have the potential of causing you stress.

3.      Set a budget, and stick with it

The Holidays have become a major source of consumerism. Avoid spending more money than you can afford. We recommend “DO It Yourself” (DIY) projects or home-baked goods (check out Pinterest, I Heart Naptime, DIY & Crafts, and BuzzFeed for easy and affordable DIY ideas). There is nothing more thoughtful and comforting than hand-made and home-baked gifts.

4.      Do not over-inflate your expectations

Some families and friendships are caught in drama and conflicts and there is no such thing as a “perfect Christmas.” Just because it is Christmas does not mean that problems, attitudes, and behaviours will magically disappear during the Holidays period. Seeing reality as it is and avoiding unrealistic expectations will keep you safe from heartbreaks and stress. You will be better prepared to respond to these attitudes, behaviours, and situations by seeing them as they are. If you do not feel capable of dealing with them, know your boundaries and practice the art of saying no. Remember, if something does not go as planned, it is not the end of the world.

5.      Plan ahead

Do not leave your Christmas shopping and meal preparation to the last minute, as they can become a major source of stress. Also, do not try to do everything: everybody deserves a break on the Holidays! If you are hosting parties, dinners, or gatherings during the Holidays, do not be afraid to delegate tasks or ask for assistance. Saying no to gatherings, activities and tasks that you know would cause you pressure is also a good way to protect yourself from stress and fatigue (both physical and mental). Check out this Ultimate Christmas Countdown Checklist and a quick guide to How to Plan a Christmas Party.

6.      Schedule some “me-time”

It is important to schedule some time for yourself to unwind during the Holidays. Walking, reading, unwinding in front of the fire, and even a spa-day (at home!) will help you remain centered, balanced, and re-energized. After all, you deserve it and “Me” time is something to be celebrated!

7.      Be aware of signs of stress and do not discard them

Acknowledging your stress, anxiety, and irritability is important and dealing with them is primordial. Use relaxation techniques by taking deep breaths, going for a walk, meditating, and removing yourself from stressful situations. If you experience persistent stress, anxiety and low mood, consider consulting a health professional. A healthy mind is as important as a healthy body: you do not want the Holidays to drain you – they are holidays after all! The Balance offers good tips to reduce Christmas stress.

8.      Your year in review

Reviewing your year before starting a new one is a good way to knowing yourself better and grow. Your list could include :

  • 5 moments you felt happiness
  • 5 moments you felt sadness
  • 5 new friends
  • 5 things you learned about yourself
  • 5 things to work on yourself
  • 5 major accomplishments

This “My year in review list” will guide you in the new year. Instead of writing a “New Year’s Resolutions,” you could instead create a list of (realistic) goals and indicate how to achieve them.

9.      The gift of love: the true meaning of Christmas

Whoever you are, whatever you believe in: Christmas is all about Love, Beauty, and Goodness. On this Holidays Season, try bringing hope to the most vulnerable among us (the homeless, the poor, the sick, the old). Generosity makes our world a better place, and above all, Love is the true meaning of Christmas. Every little act of kindness counts. You could perhaps offer a coffee or a meal to the homeless or start a conversation. Visiting the sick and the elderly is also a good idea, as no one wants to feel lonely on Christmas.

10.   Remember to have fun

Spend time with the people you love and keep a positive attitude by surrounding yourself with humour. Trying to please everyone on Christmas is an impossible task, but creating a harmonious environment at home could help uplift your mood and encourage happiness. For instance, you could put some relaxing Christmas music (perhaps in moderation, see our article on Christmas music), enjoy the little details, take the time to have conversations and touch base with your loved ones, organize a snow-ball fight, make a fire and grill some marshmallow in the chimney, etc. Family (and/or personal) traditions and living in the moment are also part of the fun!  Better Homes and Gardens has a few fun and easy Christmas party ideas.

MyTime News wishes you all Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays ! Remember to slow down, breath, and enjoy the present.