While the holiday season is supposed to be festive, create happy feelings, etc., that doesn’t mean it will automatically enhance our mental health. In fact, as many of us are painfully aware, it is not uncommon for people to feel angry, irritable, stressed out, and depressed at year’s end. Stressors include lack of time, money, too much commercialism, and pressures of giving gifts and being at family gatherings. So, if that happens, let’s find out how to turn it back around again!
Instead of waiting till the last minute to pull your holiday season and traditions together, if you mark on your calendar to start your prep a couple of months in advance (say no later than September/October), and keep tabs on yourself (create milestones in small steps and mark them on your calendar) – you will probably find yourself feeling more calm. If you have too much to do for the holidays, in addition to working at your job and fulfilling your other customary responsibilities, by all means – find some help! If you cannot find anyone else to assist, perhaps scale down your plans, keeping the most important things (traditions) intact. Develop your skills at kindly but firmly saying no (sometimes). While some feelings may get hurt, your mental health will thank you.
If you plan well, you may even have time to take a mini vacation, like going away for a weekend. In fact, it’s been shown that travel has an incredibly positive effect on health in general, and definitely on relationships. We can think more clearly and are more creative. If your travel involves being physically active, that can also help your mental health, as exercise is great for our bodies and our minds! Before your little break, take a moment to reflect on all that you have already accomplished in having a smoothly running holiday season with friends and family. These mental health benefits can last up to a month after returning home so they may just carry you through the end of the holiday season!
It’s been said many times that the holidays are really about love and gratitude (not food, presents, decorations, etc.). Have you ever tried to list the things/people you love and are grateful for? Meditate on that thought. While we’re thinking about meditating, that practice is a great way to calm ourselves down, center ourselves, and decide what is really important (and what is not). Use proven methods of accomplishing this – for some it may be relaxing for five minutes, taking a bubble bath, diffusing essential oils, for others, binaural beats (there are many free apps), free meditations, going to the gym, playing music, and more. If need be, seek out some mental health assistance with professionals. Free services are often available if insurance coverage and finances are at issue. Self-help is another great option.
Always remember to eat healthy, nutritious meals and down-play junk food. Although much of junk food is delicious, it is not usually very nutritious and is well known for supporting depression, irritability, anger, and other unhealthy emotions (which also often result in unhealthy behavior, exacerbating the issue even further). Think about how a lot of refined flour products (cakes, breads, pasta, etc.) and sugar-laden goodies can impact your blood sugar. It causes highs and lows, and this wreaks havoc with people with diabetes and others who are just generally not that healthy.
These days, the internet is full of great recipes for delicious foods – holiday recipes included – which are also nutritious. Yes, with careful planning you can make any recipe you love healthier, including those yummy baked goods and even some candy! If you don’t have the time to cook or bake everything you’d like to have, there are companies springing up which prepare food for you in extremely healthy ways and will even deliver to your doorstep. Also, think about including some non-traditional foods which you like for a little variety.
We at Health and Wellness Online would like to wish you a very happy and holistically healthy holiday season!
Dr. Donna Poppendieck (Dr. P) has over 30 years of experience in the mental health care field. She is a seasoned college professor and instructor for providers. She uses credible, proven holistic health strategies in instruction for parents of children with mental health challenges looking for another approach as well as healthcare providers seeking to implement or understand holistic strategies.