Make the holidays merrier by minding your mental health

Here are some ways you can be proactive to protect your mental health during the holidays.

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday usher in a freight train of frenetic activity. The holidays swirl in like a bad winter blizzard with a flurry of family and festivities, plus pressure to make it jolly memories. Companies and nonprofits are pushing to make year-end fundraising goals or sales quotas. Spending extra on gifts, travel and entertainment, coupled with the rising costs of food and gas due to inflation, adds additional stress.

Recent data from PwC reports that most people (74%) plan to spend the same or more this year, and 35% of shoppers definitely plan to spend more.

Mental health challenges can be exacerbated not just from holiday stress and pressures, but also from seasonal depression/seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Most Americans are still in “survival mode” struggling with anxiety, stress and unhealthy coping mechanisms due to the ongoing pandemic, plus inflation and geopolitical tensions. The holidays can also be challenging for those who have experienced a  loss, or struggle with social isolation and loneliness.

Although there’s no surefire, magic method to make your holidays merry, here are some ways you can be proactive to protect your own mental health and well-being:

  • Stay active. If you can’t jog or hit the gym, park further away at the mall. Take the stairs. Rake leaves or shovel snow. Go for a hike or walk. Play frisbee. Try to get outside in the sunshine.
  • Eat healthy. The holidays might not feel quite as festive if you restrict yourself to vegetables and water. It’s okay to indulge with special treats. Just remember “all things in moderation,” and try to keep yourself hydrated and well-rested.
  • Give grace. Political disagreements and other hot-button issues can wreak havoc at holiday gatherings. Stay calm, listen, and try to set aside differences. Remember, your loved ones and coworkers are under stress, too.
  • Make a list of what you want to accomplish each day, tackling smaller pieces of larger projects.
  • Choose joy and beauty. Focus on gratitude. Breathe, journal, paint, meditate, pray, sing, join a faith community or participate in the arts. Take breaks from negative news, social media and screens.
  • Pay it forward. Look for ways to be kind to neighbors nearby as well as those suffering around the world. Consider donating money or goods to charity and volunteering. Helping others increases endorphins, creating a mild euphoric state sometimes referred to as “The Helper’s High.”

Many wellbeing ideas — from exercise to laughter to meditation — release endorphins, known as the body’s natural painkillers. However, despite our best efforts, managing mental health can sometimes feel overwhelming. If you or someone you know need to talk, reach out to a trained counselor or therapist or your company’s EAP program. In a crisis, call or text 988, the new three-digit dialing code for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also reach out to mental health nonprofits such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness or Mental Health America.

Most importantly, remember you are not alone.

For more mental health, well-being, and holiday stress support, check out these helpful resources:

Amanda Ponzar is the chief communications & strategy officer at CHC: Creating Healthier Communities. Connect with her on LinkedIn. 

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