Self-care

Stress, Mental Health & The Holidays: Tips for Coping

The holiday season is supposed to be a relaxing time meant for spending time with friends and family as a way to reflect back on the year. In reality however this year because of the pandemic, the holidays come filled with stress of all varieties.  


And, if you live with a mental health condition, you may have an especially difficult time with the uncertainty and the change of plans this year. Many people with mental health conditions find consistency important in their recovery, especially during times of high stress - like both the pandemic and the holiday season. A sudden shift in tradition may have you feeling an extreme loss of control on top of disappointment


Many of us look forward to the holiday season. It’s full of comfort food, family, and giving... Traditions and feel-good movies. But the truth is, while it is enjoyable, it still brings a lot of stress and pressure as well; Leaving many of us coping with suffering mental health combined with stress and anxiety.


Change is difficult for most people, especially when you didn’t ask for or even expect these changes. But that doesn’t mean that the holidays are destined to be a disappointment this year. There are plenty of ways to cope with the tough feelings you’re having while still enjoying the holidays

TIPS TO COPE WITH HOLIDAY STRESS

The only way to get through the holidays is to push through, but keeping these coping strategies in mind can help you lessen the stress and increase your happiness this holiday season.


How do we not only get through the holidays, but enjoy them?

  1. BE AWARE OF YOUR FEELINGS

You’re allowed to feel however you do this holiday season. Despite the fun, there’s a lot that can make you feel not so great. Be aware of those feelings, and don’t feel guilty about them! Be sure to check-in with yourself and truly experience how something is making you feel, instead of forcing yourself to fall into the expected emotion.

  1. KEEP YOUR ROUTINE GOING

There’s no denying that things will be different this year, but holidays don’t need to be canceled. If you have a routine that works for you all year round, try to keep it in-tact throughout the holidays. This might mean the yoga class you catch once per week or Taco Tuesdays with family. Whatever it is that helps you throughout the year should be followed through now more than ever. For the things you can’t do - brainstorm how to adapt them for COVID times.You may need to bend a bit to make this happen, but it’s worth it!

  1. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

If you notice the fatigue and anxiety taking over, it’s time to take a step back and listen to what your brain and body need.

Practicing mindfulness as much as possible can help you with this by being more in tune with your body. Mindfulness can be done on the go, it can take practice, but being intentional, feeling your feelings, and noting your thoughts and emotions are the basis of this practice.

  1. SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the extravagance and magic of the season. Coping with this overwhelm and pressure starts with taking a second to recognize the larger than life expectations and paring down to what you can and want to do.

In the same vein, accepting there will be failure and imperfection is your planning and execution of the holiday season is another must.

By setting realistic expectations for yourself, of others, and preparing children with expectations, there is a lot more structure and predictability. With these things come less stress and anxiety.


Some ways to adjust expectations:

Scheduling holiday parties and visits ahead of time

Taking a look at budget

Discussing responsibilities

  1. MAKE TIME TO REST

Sleep matters. Your mental health counts on adequate sleep, and downtime to recharge and process your day.

Instead of doing everything at once, plan ahead so you have time carved out to truly relax. Remember, you can do anything, but not everything!

  1. ASK FOR HELP

Nobody said you have to do any of this alone.

Unfortunately, there is an unfair pressure around the holidays to make everything fun and gifts incredible. That’s a lot of stress. Lean on others to carry the load, and talk it out if you need to!

  1. PRACTICE SELF CARE & EXPRESS GRATITUDE

We mentioned a few things that can fall into this category already, but above all, this is doing what you need to feel good.


Self-care and Gratitude should be your major focus this time of year, and while it may seem harder to find things to appreciate, there is still plenty to be thankful for.  Your self-care during the holidays might mean:


Making cookies by yourself for yourself

Trying a new face mask

Taking up a relaxing hobby

Practice Gratitude Journaling and  Meditation

Don’t stop enjoying the nature

Turning off your phone 2 hours per day

Whatever activities that can bring you the peace, calm, and a grateful heart!  


  1. KEEP IN MIND WHAT REALLY MATTERS

In the confusion of gift lists and party invitations, it can be hard to remember what the holiday season is really about.

Ask yourself, what do you love most about the holidays? Be sure you’re getting that above anything else. This might lead to skipping a few obligations, but that’s okay. Always go back to this idea, and know if you’re achieving what really matters out of the holidays, that’s the goal.


  1. REMINDER: YOU’RE NOT SUPERHUMAN

This is your permission slip to stop looking around at what other people are doing. A lot of stress and anxiety of the season come from pressure and comparison, and if you can help doing those things you’ll feel a lot of relief.


Keep these coping tips in mind and practice them as much as you can to have a more stress and anxiety-free holiday season this year.


If  you’re still finding yourself sad, hopeless, or unable to enjoy the holidays this year, take an online screen test to determine if what you’re feeling is a sign of something like depression or anxiety rather than holiday stress. And there are numerous resources out there to support and help you!



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