A Holiday Mental Health Cheatsheet
The holidays are a mixed bag. You can love all of it, love some of it and hate some of it, or hate every single minute of it. Perhaps you avoid the holidays altogether. Or maybe, because of relationships that you value, or your spiritual values, or many other reasons, you participate in rituals, parties, family gatherings, and social events. Whatever your stance, having a proactive approach to handling this time of year can be helpful.
Ideas to make your holidays more enjoyable, meaningful, and less stressful.
Identify your values.
Take a moment to identify what you value and how the holidays can be an opportunity to live your valued life. Maybe you really enjoy fostering new friendships, or you enjoy religious or spiritual rituals related to the season. Perhaps you enjoy volunteering for organizations this time of year or really love sharing a meal with your close family. Whatever you value, identify it and get an idea of what it means for you. Having some clarity around this can make the season feel less overwhelming and more like you are in control.
Act on your values.
After you've identified what is really important to you about this holiday season, pick some small and simple ways to commit to action. If you value meaningful connection with family members, intentionally seek out time to have a conversation with a family member and be present to this. If you value creating a more healthy physical lifestyle, make a choice about how you'll approach all of the goodies at tonight's holiday party.
This may be a hard one but how can you be more gentle and kind to yourself during the next few weeks? Is it taking care of yourself physically such as time at the gym, yoga, or a massage? Or perhaps it is blocking out time for yourself and not having any commitments? Imagine if you were giving a gift to a friend to take care of themselves - what would you give them? Can you do the same for yourself?
Create your own rituals.
Some of my clients talk about feeling "swept up" in all of the activities happening right now. Or feel obligations to participate in activities that they are not so enthusiastic about. One way to feel that you are in the driver's seat during all of the hustle is to create a new ritual that is meaningful to you. Maybe your ritual is to reach out to a distant friend, or a hike in the woods on a winter day. Pick something that signifies that the holiday season is here in a positive way for you.
Practice some mindfulness.
In the whirl of the season, take a moment to be present to where you are right now. Your schedule is already probably full of activities so I'm not suggesting an all day meditation retreat (although that could be a great way to end the old year and start the new!). Instead, take a moment to watch your breath, or notice your next bite of food mindfully, or do a short walking meditation. In addition to centering you, a little mindfulness can help slow things down a bit for you, which is especially nice when you feel that you are running around during the holidays.