While some people find comfort in coming home, others dread seeing far off family—especially after a recent trauma or loss. Sometimes, experiencing the holiday blues is a direct result of high expectations. When we compare our yuletide events to the ones on television or in favorite holiday movies, we tend to be disappointed with the outcome.
In an effort to promote mental health, many resources take into account the anguish associated with the holidays to help uncover the source of your holiday blues and ways to remedy them. The following tips might help you get through the final months of the holidays without falling into a rut. These strategies are designed to help promote positive mental health at your work party, family celebration, shopping excursion, or wherever else the holidays find you.
Limit time on social media
What you see on Facebook or Instagram isn’t always the whole story. Experts say too much time comparing your holiday experiences to others’ can be disastrous to your mental health. It’s also a good (and by “good,” it really means bad) way to ostracize yourself from family and friends. It’s common to compare your life to those around you, especially during the holidays, but what’s common isn’t always good for us. Case in point: the common cold isn’t good for your health. Depression isn’t viral or bacterial like a cold; but it can be just as debilitating. If you plan to share your moments on social media this year, do so in short bursts. Try not to dwell on the seemingly perfect profiles of others.
Don’t strive for perfection
Expecting too much of your family or holiday celebration can put you on a path to disappointment. While TV holiday specials appear to be picture perfect, the parties and gatherings we actually attend can be far from what the actors and production companies portray. Don’t forget that your family, friends and co-workers aren’t a TV show cast, and your party isn’t a studio set. Instead, it’s real life—and imperfections are okay, as long as you’re ready for them.
Get plenty of rest
‘Tis the season for heavy traffic, last minute shopping and stressful planning, but in the midst of all your holiday preparation, remember to relax—and get plenty of sleep at night. Yes, you’re busier than usual, but that also means your body needs sleep more than ever. Don’t stay up too late watching those favorite holiday movies or baking extra cookies; try getting to sleep at your usual time, and listen to your body when you feel fatigued. Even though you want to get everything done and do it all this time of year, it isn’t conducive to good mental (or physical) health.
Find time to exercise
The busy holiday schedule can take time away from regularly schedule routines, such as exercise regimens. Try your best to maintain your workouts, despite the time crunch. If you’re traveling you can search for walking or running trails nearby or look up information about the hotel you’re staying at and find out if they have an exercise room. If you’re staying with family, ask if they have any fitness equipment or a guest pass you can borrow for a visit to a nearby fitness facility.
If you have to push back or hold off on much-needed exercise, remember that even a short, daily walk helps ease holiday tension, stress and fatigue—this includes schlepping gifts across a shopping mall. Decorating your home for the holidays and cleaning up after a big meal or when house guests take off also burns calories. In fact, you can burn between 100 and 300 calories an hour doing various types of house work. If you are hosting house guests, consider a walking tour of your neighborhood or nearby town to get everyone outside and moving. If kids are in tow, get the little ones outside for a game of tag or hide and seek, or volunteer to walk the family dog together. Stay active whenever you can, and your body will thank you.
Destress early and often
You’ll probably get worked up about something, at some point this season. From flight delays, to packed department stores, to shoddy gift-wrapping and too much time with the in-laws—the holidays have a way of pushing our buttons. If you have a pre-New Year pet peeve, remember that there are several ways to calm down and destress. You might try yoga, meditation, a light massage or listening to soothing soft rock by a warm fire. However you settle down, it’s important to relax and enjoy yourself.
Know your options
Your insurance plan may offer support when you are facing a difficult time. At Priority Health, we will direct you to counselors who can help you for the long term. Our highly trained team members will listen to your situation and walk you through potential support options.
All calls are completely confidential and you don’t have to call your primary care doctor first. When you call, make sure to keep your membership card handy to verify your coverage. Call 616.464.8500 or 800.673.8043, Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Remember, the most important thing is to reach out.
The holidays only happen once a year; let’s all have a happier—mentally healthier—holiday season.