By Elizabeth Dosoretz, LCSW
The holidays are a joyful time for many. Yet, this often-hectic season of life can also be a source of added stress that we must work to overcome.
A recent report from the American Psychiatric Association shows that 31% of adults expect to feel more stressed this holiday season. The most common drivers of stress include concern over being able to afford gifts and meals during the holidays, as well as finding and securing gifts for loved ones.
As we juggle countless parties, manage financial strain and navigate family dynamics during the holidays, we all need a reminder to check in with ourselves and practice mindful coping mechanisms throughout the holiday season.
Consider these tips to ensure mental well-being is at the forefront during the holidays and into the new year:
With holiday parties and events practically every day, it’s easy to feel overloaded. Whether it’s your time or budget, setting boundaries with family members and friends is important for maintaining balance. Prioritize your time, avoid overcommitting and know that it’s OK to say no to plans when your schedule is full. For gift giving, set a budget and stick to it. If you’re unable to purchase gifts for family and friends, you’d be surprised how many don’t mind, or are in the same situation that you are. Try to think of out of the box ways you can show that you care – one of the greatest gifts can be quality time!
Remember what really matters
The holidays are never as picture-perfect as the movies. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to check off your Christmas shopping list, creating the perfect meal, or decorating to impress your friends, family or coworkers. Setting high expectations about how amazing events or activities should go can lead to feeling disappointed or stressed when they fail to meet your expectations. When this happens, try to take a step back and focus on the deeper meaning of the holiday season – which can be different for everyone. You may find comfort in time spent with loved ones or enjoying your favorite traditions (or creating new traditions). This can be something as simple as a movie night or driving around to look at your neighbor’s holiday lights.
Think from other perspectives
While spending time with your loved ones can be a highlight of the holidays, family dynamics may become challenging. What is relaxing and appropriate for one family or family member may not be enjoyable or appropriate for another. Give your loved ones (and yourself) some grace and celebrate the holidays in a way that protects and respects your unique needs. When necessary, remove yourself from controversial conversations or conversations that may trigger negative feelings.
Engage in mindfulness techniques
During a season that is focused on togetherness, it’s still important to make time for yourself. Set aside time for a self-check regularly. Meditation, quiet time, and journaling can keep you grounded by helping you acknowledge and better understand your feelings.
Prioritize healthy routines
Enjoy your favorite holiday treats and special Christmas festivities with your friends, but try to remember the things your body truly needs: -water, healthy food, exercise and sleep. These elements are critical to your overall health and well-being, and in turn, your mental health as well. Making healthy choices can help you feel physically energized and mentally balanced throughout the season.
Reach out for help
If you’re currently being seen by a therapist or psychiatrist, it can be difficult to attend your follow ups when you have a jam-packed schedule. It’s important to come to standing appointments so that you can continue your treatment. You can also look to your loved ones when you feel that you need additional support. If you are having trouble sleeping, loss of interest in holiday traditions you typically enjoy, changes in appetite, difficulty concentrating or performing daily tasks, we recommend seeking a mental health professional so that they can help.
The holidays may present a unique set of challenges, but with a mindful plan in place, you are better equipped to handle stressors that arise this season and prepare you for the new year ahead.
About the Author
Elizabeth Dosoretz, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and mother of three. Her personal journey through the challenges of postpartum depression inspired her to establish Elite DNA Behavioral Health in 2013 with a goal to provide accessible, affordable mental health care to everyone. Now one of the largest mental health providers in the state, Elite DNA provides in-person and virtual behavioral health services from more than 25 locations across Florida. To find an office near you, visit our interactive map.
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