The holidays can be exciting, but this time of year can also trigger an increase in stress, anxiety, depression, and maladaptive behaviors like substance abuse. But don't fret! With practice, we can change the way we respond when "the most wonderful time of the year" comes around.
Check out my 6 "E's" for surviving the holidays below and start planning now for a truly cheerful and peaceful holiday season:
1. Ease Up On Social Media
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), people who spend more time on social media and less time interacting with people in person have an increased risk of feeling anxious and depressed. So given the increased financial stress and pressure we feel to give gifts, we don't need to add more fuel to the fire by scrolling too much on our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter feeds and negatively comparing our lives to others.
Instead, we should consider limiting our screen time to just ten minutes a day or disabling our accounts altogether for a period of time. Perhaps unfollowing certain accounts that we know trigger us could help as well.
Some possible alternatives for spending time on social media could include volunteering, reading a self-help book, working on a puzzle, or even just relaxing and watching a comedy.
2. Eat Well
The food mood connection is real, so we have to be especially conscious not to engage in unhealthy stress eating this time of year. And with chocolates, cupcakes, and cookies swirling around the office during the holidays, eating well can be even more challenging.
But if we want a shot at true peace and wellness right now, we have to stick to a diet that is going to help us maintain a good outlook and mood.
We've got to make sure we drink plenty of water and incorporate antioxidant rich foods like berries and green leafy vegetables everyday. Perhaps we could stand to step up our meal prep game to avoid the temptation of eating too many sweets and fast food.
It's going to take some discipline, but eating well is definitely going to be crucial if we want to have a happy holiday.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, exercise has been shown in several studies to ease symptoms of depression. So now is a great time for us to start a fitness challenge with friends and family! If we can gather a group, we should do a daily plank or jumping jack challenge because it's easier to stick to a fitness plan when we have accountability partners.
But if we don't find any takers, we should still try to set aside time in the morning or evening to go for a jog, do some yoga, jump rope, etc. Because it will improve our self-esteem, boost our mood, and shave off some of the stress we've accumulated.
We don't have to wait until the New Year to set health and fitness goals for ourselves. The best time to do that is right now, so we can start the year off with a bang!
4. Embrace Your Emotions
Pretending to be happy when we're not is a recipe for disaster. If we don't feel super cheerful, we have to acknowledge it, embrace it, and work through it.
If we're dreading going to a family gathering, or we feel like we're on the verge of slipping into an anxiety, depressive, or grief episode, we have to call a "time out" and focus on some good old fashioned self-care (journaling, meditating, spending time in nature, etc.).
And if we need to schedule an appointment with a therapist just to talk about our holiday blues, we should definitely do that. Emotional health goes hand in hand with mental health, so we have to take time to address our emotions head on.
5. Establish Boundaries
This just might be the most important "E" on the list. Because the holidays can lead to burn out when we don't know how to set boundaries for ourselves and for others.
When we overextend ourselves, add too much to our plates, and don't know how to communicate our needs with others, we're setting ourselves up for holiday failure.
'Tis the season to say no and put our mental health over any and everything that threatens to disrupt it.
If we can't afford to spend as much money as we did last year, we should set a clear boundary with ourselves not to overspend. And we shouldn't feel guilty about it!
If we know we have friction with certain family members, we should plan to respectfully (but firmly) establish what behaviors we are and are not going to tolerate.
Creating a bubble of peace for ourselves is important for any time of the year, but especially during the holidays.
6. Enjoy More Of What You Like
Once we've successfully implemented the 5 strategies above, then our next and final step is to actually enjoy the holidays by incorporating activities that we genuinely value and like.
If we like going to museums and we haven't been in a while, now's the time to do go. If we enjoy a good paint and sip class, we should find one and add it to our calendar.
We deserve to feel good during the holiday season, not just simply "get through it." So we should try to fill ourselves up with positive experiences and joyful memories.
In conclusion, adulting during the holidays has it's challenges, but by implementing some or all of these strategies, we may discover that approaching the holidays from a different angle may prove to be worthwhile. It's worth a shot, right?
I wish everyone true peace and good health this holiday season!