How to Take Care of Your Mental Health During the Holidays

Common mental health concerns tend to manifest more frequently during the holidays than at any other time of the year, including the holiday blues, seasonal affective disorder, and a exacerbation of mental health symptoms.

The holiday blues refer to an increased sense of sadness during the months of November and December. The holidays can serve as reminders of lost loved ones or make individuals feel lonely if they lack many connections. The sadness typically subsides with the arrival of the New Year.

Seasonal affective disorder is a mood disorder characterized by the recurrence of depressive symptoms at the same time each year. For many, this period begins in the fall and winter, concluding with the arrival of spring. It is triggered by reduced exposure to sunlight as the days become shorter.

How is Mental Illness Different?

Many individuals contend with mental health conditions throughout the entire year, such as depression or anxiety. Research indicates that 64% of people with a mental illness reported that their symptoms worsen to some extent during the holidays. Additionally, statistics reveal that 40% of adults experience heightened anxiety owing to the numerous social demands of the holiday season.

This article delves into the specifics of maintaining good mental health during the festive period.

How to Take Care of Your Mental Health During the Holidays

Throughout the festive season, you might experience anxiety and stress related to selecting gifts for family members, creating a festive atmosphere, decorating your home, or embarking on long-distance travels.

You need not let your mental health decline during this holiday season. There are numerous steps you can take to ensure the well-being of your mental health and prevent the escalation of symptoms.

Here’s a guide on how to look after your mental health during the holidays.

Stay Physically Healthy

Our nation continues to grapple with COVID and its variants, alongside the usual array of viruses. The holiday season is a period when your social interactions may rise, exposing you to potential viruses. This concern can be alleviated through adequate self-protection. Adhere to guidelines when participating in group activities.

Physical health has a reciprocal relationship with mental well-being. When you are unwell or injured, your mood naturally reflects this state. Experiencing joy while battling the flu appears nearly impossible. Even minor discomforts like headaches, stomachaches, or sniffles can add stress to every task.

Make an effort to enhance your body’s well-being. Schedule a checkup with your doctor, take vitamins and supplements, adopt a healthy diet most days to allow for indulgences at parties, and refrain from activities that you know will worsen your well-being. For instance, abstain from alcohol or drug consumption and ensure you get adequate sleep.

Increase Self-Care Activities

Prioritising self-care is a year-round necessity, but it becomes especially crucial to intensify such activities for better mental health balance during the holidays. Self-care involves undertaking specific actions that foster positive well-being. Ensuring the overall health of your physical, mental, social, spiritual, and emotional aspects is essential to perform optimally in work, home, and social spheres. Here are some suggestions on how to care for these facets:

  1. Ensure uninterrupted, ample sleep each night.
  2. Incorporate at least 30 minutes of daily exercise, even if it is light in intensity.
  3. Consume nutritious foods with inherent value.
  4. Connect with friends and family who uplift your mood, and steer clear of those who bring negativity.
  5. Engage in mentally stimulating activities such as reading or solving puzzles.
  6. Monitor your self-talk; whenever negative thoughts arise, promptly replace them with self-compliments.
  7. Participate in spiritual or religious practices that provide a sense of well-being, supported by ample research on the health benefits of such connections.
  8. Employ healthy methods to process emotions, such as journaling, blogging, painting, or music. Consulting with an individual therapist can assist in formulating a personalised self-care plan.
  9. Integrate daily relaxation techniques into your routine, such as yoga, meditation, prayer, massage, or deep breathing.
  10. Volunteer in the community. If time constraints arise during the holidays, consider replacing less meaningful activities with volunteer work, as the internal rewards derived from helping others are truly worthwhile. For instance, instead of attending a mid-week office party, communicate your commitment to volunteer work.

Utilize Your Support System

If you currently lack a support system, there’s no need to worry. You can establish one today. During the holidays, there might be a temptation to isolate oneself and steer clear of social interactions. However, this could result in feelings of loneliness and negative thoughts. The season may also bring about overwhelming responsibilities and commitments. These instances are opportune times to reach out to your support system, comprising individuals willing to be there for you when needed.

A support system need not be extensive, just a handful of individuals who are willing to lend an ear and assist you in managing unforeseen challenges. Potential supports may include pastors, friends, family members, neighbours, and teachers. Mental health therapists should always be part of your support team as they possess specific tools and techniques to uplift your mood. Additionally, you might consider participating in a community-based support group where you can both receive and offer peer support.

Remember What Is Most Important

The festive season is transient. Don’t jeopardise your mental well-being for something that will be concluded in just a few weeks. Prioritise maintaining your health, even if it entails turning down invitations to parties or other social events. In the years to come, and perhaps even next year, nobody will recall whether you attended the gathering or had a good time.

Many people will respect you for prioritising your mental health, and you might serve as a role model for others facing similar mental health challenges.

Participating in parties, overspending, overindulging in food and drink, and sacrificing sleep won’t provide you with the fresh start you deserve in the new year. Moreover, these should not be the sole reasons for the season. Steer clear of stressors so that when January arrives, you feel content, rejuvenated, and ready for success.

Concentrate on what truly matters: gratitude, thankfulness, peace, love, hope, and, of course, yourself.