While the onset of the holiday season can be an exciting time, it can also create substantial stressors and mood shifts. Given all the build-up around the holidays, it’s not uncommon for people to sometimes get the ‘holiday blues.’ Feeling down, stressed, or simply burnt out is normal.

As we head into the holiday season – especially during the pandemic when many of our normal coping strategies may be put to the test – it is essential to be mindful of our mental health. Here are some key points to consider that can help you and those you love to avoid holiday-induced anxiety and stress during this time:

If You’re Spending the Holidays Solo, Find Creative Ways to Connect

There is comfort in the thought of seeing loved ones over the holidays and spending precious time together after a long and challenging year. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this year exceptionally difficult, as celebrating with friends and family hasn’t always been an option. But consider how resilient you have been throughout this unprecedented year, and use that same energy to make this holiday special and different in a positive way.

Think about unique ways to feel connected – learning to cook your favourite holiday recipes, scheduling virtual dinners and festive parties, playing virtual games, sending thoughtful gifts and cards to open throughout the season when you may be feeling low.

Another Way to Feel in the Holiday Spirit is to Show Gratitude

Consider doing something for people you may know or even a stranger who has suffered personal or financial losses during the pandemic. A little human kindness can go a very long way.

Don’t Be Afraid to Set Boundaries with Friends and Loved Ones

As pandemic fatigue hits a new high, some people may decide to take the risk and plan holiday get-togethers despite warnings from health officials. These will be difficult decisions for all of us to make, as many people are feeling the need for some in-person social interactions.

But it’s important to check in with yourself about your comfort level regarding COVID-19 risk. Ultimately, keeping yourself and others around you physically safe and healthy should take priority, so saying no does not mean you are being unkind or an inconsiderate friend or family member. It’s quite the opposite, actually. Continue to remind yourself of this leading up to the holidays, to avoid feeling stuck in a cycle of self-blame and guilt.

Acknowledge Feelings of Grief During the Holiday Season

It is always difficult to go through holidays when you have lost a loved one, and this year the pain is ever more present on a global scale. In previous years, one could share the grief with family members when gathering over the holidays, but this year it is unlikely that will be possible.

Take the time to acknowledge your feelings of grief, think about how you would like to safely honour the memory of your loved one, and understand you are not alone.

Embrace and Appreciate a Low-Key Holiday

In past years, many people have likely felt the stress of planning an elaborate holiday dinner or the perfect holiday party for a crowd, and the exhaustion that often comes with this. The desire for perfection can often make people feel increasingly anxious as they are planning, and then eventually disappointed if (and when) something doesn’t play out accordingly.
Life rarely follows our plans, and this year, more than ever, serves as a reminder.

This holiday season is the time to try to let go of all holiday expectations and the intense pressure we put on ourselves for Instagram-worthy celebrations.

You might find that letting go actually makes it easier to enjoy the holidays just a little bit more and remain in the present.
Have Your Healthiest Holiday Yet
Sleep is essential for maintaining overall good mental health, and a low-key holiday is a perfect time to take advantage of some extra rest and relaxation. Adults between the ages of 18 and 60 years of age should get seven or more hours of sleep a night. Getting plenty of rest and developing a sleep schedule can help mitigate winter depression. When it comes to developing good sleep hygiene, try to go to bed around the same time every evening. Take a hot shower or bath to relax your muscles or even meditate before bed to help you doze off to sleep more easily.

Exercise Is Also Crucial

As you work out, your body releases endorphins, which help ease pain and stress while promoting happy feelings. It’s just one reason regular exercise is critical to an excellent overall self-care plan. While fitness may seem like a chore, particularly around the holidays, consider festive activities to get your body moving. Also choose activities that are physically motivating and stimulating to you.

Recognise Holiday-Induced Stress and Focus On The Positive

Like everything in life, stress makes any situation worse, so it’s critical to try to mitigate it where and when you can. Holiday planning and family gatherings (even virtually) are bound to add an extra component of stress. Plus significant additional stressors regarding COVID-19 and the differing opinions about handling the pandemic are something to watch out for.

It could prove beneficial to avoid potentially combative conversations and hot button topics virtually or in person. What’s more, try to appreciate the positive aspects of a “different” type of holiday this year while celebrating the good in those around us, near and far.

And while COVID-19 will continue, realise you can decrease your risk of infection by being informed, practising social distancing and good hygiene, and wearing a mask. At the end of the day, it’s about recognising what you can and cannot control.

Identify what creates stress in your life, and put plans in place to help alleviate that stress.

Most of all, though, remember you are human. Implementing and practising the tips above can go a long way toward setting you on a path to a happier and healthier holiday season.

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