Although the holiday season certainly is a joyous time of year, filled with friends and family, it’s also widely considered to be easily one of the most stressful periods.
Whether it’s financial woes, family drama, or workplace stress that has you down, it’s important to make sure you’re keeping your mental health at the forefront this holiday season. That may look different person to person, but there are a few key things to keep in mind.
Gifts don’t matter if you aren’t present.
I love this one. Too often, we’re concerned with showing our affection in materialistic ways, afraid of upsetting someone in even the most obscure of degrees.
So, what to do? Create a budget, and stick to it. Don’t over-commit to obligations you can’t reasonably keep. Having a full social calendar is expected, but you are, after all a human being with so many hours of every day. Would you really want to spend those running around like a crazy person? That’s how you wear yourself out, and others in the process. I can tell you from experience that the older you get, the less the superficial aspects of the holidays seem to matter. Take a deep breath!
Try not to overindulge.
Listen. I enjoyed my turkey and pie like everyone else this Thanksgiving. I enjoyed my grandmother’s Christmas cookies, and, I’ll tell you right now, I fully plan on enjoying a Christmas feast. But holidays can often be an excuse for people to indulge in negative behavioral cycles, especially surrounding food (and the whole idea of “resolution culture” come New Years has become more and more alarming to me as years go by).
Remember that your body is a sensitive ecosystem, and the name of the game is balance. Don’t neglect to hydrate, pack in antioxidant-rich foods and fruits and veggies. Keep an eye on your macronutrient intake- one of the easiest things in the world to do is use a recipe with simple swaps, making a healthier take on some of your favorite recipes. Conversely, don’t be afraid of food this holiday season- the kitchen table often brings us all together during these colder months, and integrating healthy routines into established family traditions is a great compromise for all.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as getting a good night’s sleep.
Sleep is a time when the body can press pause, recharge, recover from illness and injury, and be ready to put its best foot forward. Anxieties and pressure can impact your ability to sleep properly- no more often is this seen than during the hectic holiday season.
What routines help you to slow down and relax? I like to create a mental “gratitude list” after dinner, and then unwind with a book or episode of my favorite show on the couch. By the time I’ve made a cup of tea, sat down, and cracked open Pride and Prejudice, my body begins to recognize the routine, I gradually get more tired, and before I know it, I’m headed for bed. Getting out of my own head a little and realizing the need to take time out for me and create structure in my life has helped my sleep cycles get back to normal, even with holiday stress.
Get a jump on spring cleaning.
Being cooped up inside during a snowstorm is no fun, but neither is clutter. A messy space is often reflective of a stressed or preoccupied mind. Although I myself am admittedly not one of the tidiest people around, I can honestly say that there’s nothing more satisfying to me than cleaning or organizing a corner of my apartment.
Organizing can also mean plenty of opportunity to use spaces creatively in terms of holiday decor. It helps to feel like you’re being productive and getting into the spirit of things to clear out your living room to make way for the tree (just watch out for cats underfoot, in my case!)
Pay it forward.
Piggybacking off that, decorating for the holidays is a perfect time to get rid of things you don’t need, and donating items of reasonably good condition to your local Goodwill. Though times might be tough, there is someone else out there for whom the holidays are even more challenging.
If I’ve learned nothing else about the holiday season, it’s that the spirit of giving comes alive, and reminds us all what can happen when decent human beings support and love one another, even as perfect strangers.
Staying sane during the holidays is certainly a challenge, but in order to take on the rest of the year, you’ve got to get a jump on self-love and self-improvement now. Don’t wait for New Year’s!
Keep it real,