The holidays can be a fun and festive time of year. They can also bring about unwanted stress and anxiety. Psychologists have determined the holiday blues come about because of situations and our reactions to them. With the forever-long list of things to do, things to buy, parties to attend and ways we need to keep up with the rest of the world, the holidays can wear us down — and rather quickly, too.
Regardless of what we may experience, these feelings affect our mental health which can affect our overall health. Here are some ways to either avoid the holiday blues or tackle them head on:
Keep expectations in check. If you have a fairy-tale idea of how the holidays will go, most likely tensions will rise. Keep expectations realistic — knowing that travel plans might be bumpy and you might not bake the perfect dish for the company party — will stave off that down-in-the-dumps feeling.
Avoid triggers. Plan ahead as much as you can so you know what triggers to avoid. If sitting next to your uncle at family dinner causes tension, or if you know you might feel lonely on a certain night, have a plan in place so that these things don’t have a chance to flare up.
Limit social media. With the barrage of happy and festive photos and posts around this time of year, we tend to compare our lives to those of others — which can cause a spiral of negative thoughts. Taking time away from social media helps us see more clearly what we have to be grateful for.
Increase time with people you love. While social media can work against us, spending real, in-person time with people we love and enjoy can help us. Even if you don’t get along with your family, it’s important to have a social group of “chosen family” to rely on, rather than isolating yourself during the holidays. Even a phone call to a loved one can help keep the blues in check.
Take care of your body. It can be easy to over indulge on sweets or alcohol during the holidays, and if you can prevent that, it’ll go a long way to help keep your mental state in check. If you do drink or eat too much, don’t beat yourself up about it – just accept it and do better next time. Going for walks with friends or pets can help, too, even if it’s cold outside.
Say, “No, Thanks.” If the holidays just aren’t your thing, or they bring about too much stress, allow yourself to say no when you’re not feeling up for something. Trying harder to get into the mood of the holidays might actually backfire and make you feel worse.
Take some time this holiday season to relax, become mindful and do things that will improve your overall health. Listen to your body when you become overly worked or stressed and ask what good it is bringing.
If you or a loved one are experiencing distress this holiday season, don’t wait – reach out. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org anytime day or night to speak with someone.