By Kim Ureno
Whether you are married or single, live with your parents or on your own, have a large family or small, spend the time alone or with family, navigating the holidays while keeping your mental health protected can be difficult. But it doesn’t have to be impossible.
Here are 8 strategies you can try to help keep your mental health safe throughout the holiday season.
1) Plan ahead. Go over scenarios in your head of what you might think will happen. Let Aunt Susan ask you those pesky questions in your head and respond to them. Have a plan of action. That way, when it happens for real, you won’t get so bent out of shape. It might even make you laugh because you already saw it coming, word for word!
2) Maintain routines. By maintaining your regular routine your body and mind will know what to expect and be ready for the day. So, incorporate regular physical activity into each day, get enough sleep and make sure you are eating and drinking water.
3) Manage your expectations. Communicate your needs to family members in advance, accept that the holidays may not turn out the way you imagine, or practice self-acceptance by giving yourself grace throughout the holidays.
4) Set boundaries. Plan now to say “no” to 1 or 2 obligations each holiday season. Give yourself permission to prioritize what is important to you. Your well-being is more important than your attendance at a party.
5) Change your perspective. The holidays aren’t just about food and presents; they are about love and gratitude, and gratitude lowers stress. Try to find gratitude during the holiday season as a protective factor in lowering feelings of anxiety and depression
6) Don’t be alone if you don’t want to. If you prefer to spend the holidays relaxing in solitude, there is nothing wrong with that. But, if you find yourself feeling lonely and without people to spend time with, you can always talk to neighbors or coworkers, look for local events, or volunteer.
7) Create a mantra. Think of a mantra that you can come to when you start to lose your cool. A couple examples are “I cannot control others” or “I control my peace”. When pesky Aunt Susan asks you something for the millionth time, remember your mantra. Say it in your head over and over again and believe those words.
8) Choose healthy coping habits. Avoid drugs and alcohol, as they can worsen anxiety and depression. Practice mindfulness. Taking deep breaths, meditating, or just listening to 10 minutes of calming music may help. Take a walk. Walking can lower your blood pressure and reduce feelings of anxiety, and hey, it gets you out of the stressful situation.
You don’t have to do all eight, you don’t even have to do one, but just be aware how you are feeling during the next month and a half. Acknowledge those feelings, sit with them. And remember, take care of yourself first, then if you are able to, take care of everyone else.
May your holidays be safe and peaceful.
Originally posted on The Mental Well, an initiative of JCS Prevention & Wellness.
Kim Ureno is a Health Educator at Jewish Community Services.
Jewish Community Services (JCS) provides programs and services for people of all ages and backgrounds, helping them achieve their goals, enhance their wellbeing, and maximize their independence. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.
The Mental Well, an initiative of JCS, is an online community for young adults, created by young adults, who are navigating the highs and lows that accompany their 20s and 30s. To learn more, visit thementalwellblog.org or email email@example.com.