While some people find comfort and joy in the holiday season, but others may experience dread—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. These feelings may be especially potent this year as COVID-19 has forced the holidays to be celebrated differently and many people may be spending this time away from loved ones.
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 throughout the holiday season.
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. Not everyone in your group may feel comfortable with meeting in person (and per CDC and MDHHS guidelines, gatherings should be avoided and no more than two households should be gathering) or maybe your virtual game night or party is as engaging as you’d hoped. This is okay! Everyone is feeling fear, disappointment and burnout right now — don’t put too much pressure on yourself or others to go above and beyond this holiday season. Instead, focus on taking care of yourself.
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. Find fun ways to get active in the cold weather as a family to knock out both a workout and quality time together all in one afternoon.
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 also burns calories. In fact, you can burn between 100 and 300 calories an hour doing various types of house work. 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 shopping difficulties, to endless cancelled plans—the holidays have a way of pushing our buttons, especially this year. 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. For example, Priority Health will direct members to counselors who can help you for the long term. 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.