The holidays often present a dizzying array of demands — cooking meals, shopping, baking, cleaning, entertaining, and much more. With the uncertainty of COVID-19, it may cause additional stress and worry. This time of year elevates stress levels for many and can be particularly challenging times for those with mental health and substance use disorders. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 24% of people with a diagnosed mental illness find that the holidays make their condition “a lot” worse and 40% reported feeling “somewhat” worse.
So how can you actually start enjoying (or at least stop dreading) the holiday season?
Try these 12 things:
Acknowledge your feelings. Identify what you are experiencing and listen, without judgement, to what your emotions are telling you. Don’t tell yourself that you “should” feel a certain way.
Say “No.” If you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to say “no” to an invitation.
Set a budget and stick to it. Financial stress is difficult for many families this time of year. Don’t worry about impressing anyone - only buy what you can afford. If you have a large family, draw names instead of buying for everyone. Think of gifts that don’t cost a lot. If you bake, share cookies with people. Did you take a really amazing photograph? Print it and buy a frame at the dollar store.
Get outside! Go for a walk or engage in any type of exercise you enjoy.
Get enough sleep. It’s easy to find yourself staying up late to get everything done, but don’t skimp on sleep. Not enough sleep increases stress and anxiety and worsens your mood.
Be realistic. Not everything needs to go perfectly this holiday season (and it probably won’t). That’s okay! Manage your expectations. Do only what’s most important to you and what you enjoy the most. You can’t do it all, so don’t try.
Take a break for self-care. Try meditating, yoga, read a book, hang out with friends, coloring, listening to music or try a new activity! Here are some other ideas.
Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for holiday shopping, baking, connecting with friends, and other activities. Also plan for ways to cope with situations you know will be stressful.
Set boundaries. Whether it’s managing stressful family situations or taking covid precautions, set boundaries. That might mean limiting time with certain family members or saying no to a gathering. Here are some tips.
Avoid alcohol, substances, and overindulging. If you’re in recovery, holidays can be a particularly stressful time. Here are some tips for coping and maintaining sobriety. Even if you don’t have a substance use disorder, you should limit alcohol intake, avoid substances and eat holiday treats in moderation. Too much any of these things can negatively impact your mood.
Honor a loved one. If you have lost someone and are struggling, remember that it is okay to be sad. There is no way to replace the presence of a loved one who has passed away, but one way of coping is to honor their memory rather than mourn their absence. Here are some ideas for honoring your loved one and coping with grief at the holidays.
We hope you have a peaceful holiday season!
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