I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that every year is going by more quickly. Whether I am ready for it or not, Thanksgiving has already passed and December is quickly coming upon us again. The holidays can bring a lot of fun enjoying family traditions and finding ways to bring joy to others. It can also bring with it extra busyness trying to fit more activities into an already packed schedule, financial and emotional stress of buying the “perfect” gifts for everyone, and the anxiety that may come from real or imagined family obligations.
This holiday season, my goal is to be mindful of my time, energy, and finances and look for ways to take care of my mental health before I cater to the many stresses and obligations in front of me; my holiday wish is the same for you!
Here are a few ideas to maintain your mental health this holiday season:
Prioritize self-careBefore you schedule anything else on your calendar for the next month, schedule time for yourself. Make time for a massage, facial, yoga class, an extra run, a Netflix binge session, or whatever it is that recharges your batteries.
Prioritize your marriage/relationship
After you make time for you, but before you make time for other family and friends, make time for your relationship. Schedule a date night or two. Maybe you and your partner have a favorite holiday tradition, or maybe this a good time to create a new one…take a drive to look at Christmas lights, have a special holiday dinner out, go to a coffee shop and enjoy your favorite holiday drink together, or take some kid free time to do some holiday shopping. Whatever you do, have FUN together and make it a time and place you can talk, connect, and share your feelings with each other.
et expectations with family
I know we often feel obligated to participate in family activities because we want to avoid conflict, we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, or maybe even because we’ve never given any thought to doing anything different. The thing is, if you are “going along” with the family and it negatively effects your mental health, it isn’t worth it. That doesn’t always mean you don’t see family (although sometimes it might), it could be as simple as offering to host instead of going somewhere else, it might mean setting boundaries on your time commitments to family, or it might mean you pay a little extra and get a hotel room instead of staying with family when you are visiting from out of town.
There can be so much pressure, especially if you have young children, to do all.the.things over the holidays. There is Elf on a Shelf, countdown calendars, baking cookies, visiting Santa, holiday parties, holiday cards, creating reindeer food, making reindeer hoof prints in the yard, and so much more. These are all meant to be fun and create memories with your children, but if they cause you stress, sleepless nights, or make you feel “less than,” it isn’t worth it. Your children need to know they are loved and cared for more than they need any fun traditions and if you can’t provide them a consistently loving environment because of these outside influences, then skip them. Your children will be ok!
Keep your routines
Especially your sleep routines. Sleep is vital to healthy mental functioning and so, just like self-care, prioritize your sleep. Don’t take on extra tasks or commitments that get in the way of your normal sleep routines.
Consider a break from social media
It can be hard to have realistic expectations at any time of year when we see others’ perfect lives, perfect relationships, and perfect children on social media. The holidays can make that even more difficult as we see perfect vacations, perfect extended families, perfectly decorated homes with perfectly placed décor, and so much more! If you find yourself feeling “less than” or anxious by what you see on social media – ditch the social media. It doesn’t have to be forever, but the holidays bring enough added stress without the comparison to others’ perfect experiences. Take this time to slow down as much as you can, to focus on the people in front of you, and to enjoy what you have – even if it’s less than picture perfect!
No matter how much you try to slow down during this time of year, it may still end up being busier than you plan. One way to manage the added stress is to develop a mindfulness practice – even if it’s just 5 minutes per day. Find time to sit quietly and focus inward. There are a lot of ways to do this, from focusing on your breath to guided meditations. If this is new for you, and you don’t know where to start, there are several great smart phone apps to help. A few I recommend are Calm, Insight Timer, and Headspace.
Find an ally
Sometimes we just need to vent and know that someone else understands. Whether that is a close friend or whether it’s a professional counselor, find someone who “gets” you and will be in your corner to listen and sit with you in the stress and the muck, and celebrate with you in the fun.