Mental health is important all year long. But around the holidays it can be especially difficult to feel your best. The holiday season brings a lot of demands – parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining – which can lead to stress and depression. To make sure your holidays are happy ones, it’s important to keep some perspective and stop the celebration from taking an emotional toll. These tips from the Mayo Clinic can help keep stress and depression away.
1. Acknowledge your feelings. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you absolutely have to feel happy. Give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling, whether it’s sadness, grief or frustration. Your heart doesn’t run by the calendar. If you’re feeling blue, don’t add emotions of guilt and anxiety on top of it.
2. Don’t go it alone. Human beings are social – we are meant to be with others. If you’re feeling lonely or isolated, seek out community, church, or social events. Join a club or spend time volunteering. There’s always something going on at your local YMCA!
3. Manage expectations. Sometimes we put too much stress on ourselves because we think things are supposed to be a certain way. But, it’s important to remember that change is possible. Traditions are great, but changing them as families and demands grow is fine too. Relax and find new ways to celebrate. It’s okay!
4. Stick to a budget. A huge source of stress and depression during the holidays is money. It’s common to overspend, or to feel guilty because you think you haven’t spent enough. Understanding this and taking steps to stay on budget can help. Before you head to the mall, decide on how much you can afford and stick with it. Or, consider alternatives to gift giving such as donating to a charity in someone’s name, making homemade gifts, or drawing names for a gift exchange.
5. Be selective. The holidays bring a slew of invitations to parties, potlucks and concerts, and it’s easy to overload your calendar and soon feel resentful and overwhelmed. Instead, think about the events that are important to you and prioritize those. Don’t take on too much or feel you have to say yes to everything. In addition, carve out some time for yourself and do things on your own that reduce stress and restore your inner calm.
6. Stay healthy. Throughout the parties and busy schedules, keep healthy habits on track. It’s tempting to blow off a workout or grab those cookies someone brought to the office. But don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all, as overeating and not exercising only add to stress and depression. Try to limit sweets, cheese, and alcohol. Get plenty of sleep and stick to your exercise routine.
7. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, it is possible during the holidays or anytime, to still feel blue. You may feel persistently sad or anxious, irritable, or hopeless. You may have difficulty sleeping, experience a change in appetite, or find yourself unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last, it’s important to get help. Depression is treatable. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
8. Take back control. Finally, just because the holidays are here doesn’t mean you have to be subject to past feelings or new pressures. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, whether it’s overspending, overscheduling, or overeating. Slow down and regain perspective. Think positively and try to find peace and joy.
The holidays can be stressful, but with some planning and understanding, you can make the most of them. For more tips on healthy living of the spirit, mind, and body, contact the wellness professionals at the YMCA.