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  • Writer's pictureK Smith

Mental Health and the Holidays

The holidays are supposed to be a time to look forward to and celebrate. However, this time for some may also be difficult and possibly have a negative effect or put pressure on our mental health. From family gatherings to holiday obligations to new year’s resolutions, the winter season can often lead to increased levels of anxiety and depression.

When you're immersed in all the activities that may not enjoy, it can be difficult to find ways to break away from them and address the overwhelming feelings you may be experiencing.

Here are some tips to help you in fighting the winter blues.

Holiday gatherings can be difficult to manage, especially for those who have dysfunctional relationships. This time of year is the most difficult for those who have unstable relationships with their families.

You may find yourself in discussions about past mistakes, politics and world views, unmet expectations, and other anxiety-producing topics which can bring stress.

In these situations, setting boundaries can be extremely important. This may mean staying at home for some of the holidays, choosing to not discuss certain overwhelming topics, or spending less time interacting with difficult relatives.

Planning ahead plays an important role in reducing potential stress. Knowing the people, conversations, or situations that trigger you and then preparing some coping skills (such as deep breathing, taking a moment to yourself, reach out to a friend, etc.) ahead of time may give you an increased sense of control over the situation as well as decrease stress.

It can be easy to fall into a routine of only focusing on the negative aspects of this time of year. Still, finding joy in little places and carefully choosing your holiday activities may help ease feelings of depression and sadness. Practicing intentional gratitude is often a good place to start. Try writing down or repeating to yourself what you’re grateful for every morning (whether that be your family, a yummy meal, a furry friend, or anything else that you feel especially blessed by for that day).

Taking time to focus on the good in your life may help change your focus from thoughts that are causing you to feel down. Showing gratitude towards others can bring back a sense of joy and fulfillment. If you are able, consider donating to a nonprofit organization that you connect with or volunteering (in person or online) for an organization that helps those who may not have as much this winter season.

Look for day-to-day nuggets of happiness, if you find yourself ruminating on sad memories, overwhelming to-do lists, or stressful future events, find the small things that bring you joy. It could be as simple as a funny video, a kind text from a friend, or a fond memory captured in a photograph – the little things can provide us with a temporary escape from the stresses of this time of year.

Change your winter routine. Though it may be hard to focus on your health when you are feeling overwhelmed, your mental and physical well-being are incredibly important. In other words, take extra good care of yourself!

Start by getting enough sleep (seven to nine hours, though it may be hard), avoiding excessive drinking, eating warm (and delicious) meals, getting outside (if possible), and doing some kind of physical activity as part of your daily routine. Don't stress about doing it all overnight – take your time to practice a routine that brings you stability and focuses on activities that lessen your stress instead of adding to it.

The holidays may not be easy for everyone, I hope these things help you have a more enjoyable season, but remember, if you are still feeling overwhelmed or anxious, and these feelings extend beyond the whirlwind of the holiday season, consider reaching out for help, I am here for you.

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