A Holiday Mental Health Cheatsheet
Last year I wrote about some ideas for making the holidays less mentally challenging and more meaningful. Below is a repost with some updates and new ideas.
Every person's experience of the holiday season is different. You might love every moment, experience it as a roller coaster of ups and downs, or hate every single minute and try to avoid it as much as possible. Perhaps, because of important relationships, your spiritual and religious values, or other reasons, you participate in holiday rituals, parties, family gatherings, and social events. Whatever your stance, having a proactive approach to handling this time of year can be helpful.
Below are some thoughts on how to make your holidays more enjoyable, meaningful, and less stressful.
Get clear on what matters to you.
Take a moment to identify what is important to you and how the holidays can be an opportunity to live your life based on what matters. Maybe you really enjoy fostering new friendships, or you enjoy religious or spiritual rituals related to the season. Perhaps it is important to volunteer your time or share a meal with your chosen 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 of your life.
Act based on what is important.
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, intentionally seek out time to have a conversation with a family member and be present to this. If a more healthy physical lifestyle is important to you, make a choice about how you'll approach all of the goodies at tonight's holiday party. Your actions don't have to be monumental, in fact, smaller actions that feel meaningful are probably better and lead to lasting change (and fewer holiday regrets!).
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? Sometimes the best (and often difficult) way to take care of yourself is to say "no" to things, people and events that aren't healthy or meaningful for you. 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.
There are a lot of rituals this time of year, some may be meaningful to you, and others may feel more like obligations. Sometimes, it may feel like these rituals are out of your control and you're just trying to survive until January. One way to get back in the driver's seat is to create a new holiday ritual that is meaningful to you. Maybe your ritual is to reach out to a distant friend in a meaningful way, or a quiet hike by yourself. Pick something that signifies that the holiday season is here in a positive way for you. It may be personal or it may be a ritual you share with someone, but ultimately it is about you defining what this time of year means for you.
Pay attention to the present moment.
In the whirl of the season, take a moment to be present. Practice some relaxation breathing to calm your nervous system and stop and use your senses to move into the present moment. In addition to centering you, a little mindfulness of what's going on in the here and now of the moment can help you feel like things are a little less rushed, that time can slow down a bit - a nice experience during the blur of the holidays.