The daylight has changed. In most areas, colder weather has swooped in. Many of us are turning to our favorite cozy activities: Curling up with blankets, sitting by fireplaces, burrowing into warm clothing, enjoying hot beverages, etc. It’s a time of year where many of us naturally slow down.
But then, the holidays sneak up on us. When we would like to be resting, much like a hibernating animal, we find ourselves juggling work, shopping for gifts, participating in events to celebrate the holiday season, preparing for our kids’ winter breaks and more.
For those of us who turn to social media, searching for tips and tricks about managing holiday stress, we often see posts filled with what seems like perfectly decorated homes, beautifully cooked meals and families smiling brightly as they spend time together. As we scroll through posts, this level of perfection seems impossible to reach.
Of course, everyone is different. Many people find energy in the hustle and bustle of the holidays: enjoying the opportunities to socialize, the process of picking out the perfect gift, trying new recipes and anticipating the approaching celebrations. But this is not the case for everyone. Some people struggle with their mental and emotional well-being during this time of year. Some may grapple with memories that keep them from enjoying the celebrations. Many are overcome with anxiety as they realize their responsibility for getting everything done in time for the holidays. There are plenty of people counting the days until it’s all over.
How to Protect Your Mental Health During This Season
Whether you are filled with holiday cheer or would prefer to skip the whole season, we can all agree that there are levels of stress that accompany the holidays. Here are some ways you can make them a little merrier and brighter.
- Accept Imperfection
We live in a busy world where time isn’t always our friend. What’s attainable for one person could be near impossible for another. Do what works for you, keeping your mental wellness in mind. What good are the holidays if you don’t have the energy to enjoy them? Make a list, check it twice and decide if there’s anything you can remove.
- Don’t Lose Sight of What Really Counts
What “really counts” will be different from person to person — whether that means spending time with family and friends, spending some much-needed downtime at home or focusing on the year ahead. Be present in those moments.
- Be Kind
This includes being kind to others as well as yourself. While this should be a year-round behavior, it never hurts to be reminded! We never know what any one person is going through. Receiving and giving kindness is beneficial to all involved, so don’t hold back.
- Find Time to Decompress
Back-to-back events, shopping, keeping up with household chores and work demands can be tiring. Make sure you are taking the time to recharge and use your best coping skills. Exercise, nutrition, sleep and familiar routines can be our best friends during these busier times. Of course, these are not the only ways to practice self-care: pay attention to those practices that make you feel grounded and your best.
- Ask For — and Accept — Help
If you notice that you’re overwhelmed or find yourself dreading any upcoming responsibilities that you’ve agreed to, ask for support. If someone offers to take a task off your list of to-do list, allow yourself to graciously accept if it gives you any feeling of relief. Sometimes, we take on too much and find ourselves regretting our decisions. Asking for help or accepting help doesn’t make you weak — it shows you are mindful of your limitations. You shouldn’t feel guilty for accepting someone else’s kindness. It gives those around you permission to do the same if they find themselves in a similar predicament in the future.
Take care of yourself this holiday season. Find the joy in your surroundings, wherever they may be, and remember: You are not alone.
Jennifer Rothman has been with NAMI at both the state and national level for a combined 14 years. She lives in North Carolina with her blended family of six, including four dogs. Jennifer has a passion for helping youth, young adults and their families who are affected by mental health conditions.