The holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. But between buying gifts, hosting holiday parties, and trying not to break your healthy habits, the holiday season can also be the most stressful time of the year. The holidays can be especially challenging if you're living with a mental health disorder, such as an anxiety disorder or substance abuse issues.
Stress of any kind takes a toll, both mentally and physically. It impacts a person's ability to manage anxiety and emotional regulation, leading to poor judgment, impulsive decisions, and even physical health problems. And nobody wants that vibe at their next family gathering.
If you're feeling drained or overwhelmed this holiday season, here's how to make your mental health a priority.
1. Carve time out of your schedule for self-care
Between holiday shopping, social activities, and family gatherings, it's easy to overlook your own needs during the holidays, which can leave you feeling drained and depleted. If you're stuck in a low mood or struggling with poor mental health, it's important to give your mind some time to rest and replenish.
Carve some extra time out of your schedule for self-care, whether that's doing some yoga, taking a bubble bath, or reading your favorite book. Whatever it is that gives you time to reset and leaves you feeling rejuvenated, make time for it. At the end of the day, self-care isn't an indulgence or treat—it's a necessity that helps us live healthier, more productive lives.
2. Don't ignore your physical health
Your physical health is just as important as your mental health, and it's important to make healthy choices throughout the holiday season. Especially if you're living with a disability or chronic illness, you should pay extra attention to your physical health as the holidays approach.
Set aside some extra time each day, even if it's only a few minutes, to get your body moving. According to Harvard Health, as little as 15 minutes of aerobic exercise (increasing your breathing and heart rate) is enough to release endorphins and leave you feeling more positive, both about the world and yourself. Along with exercise, make sure you're getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet.
3. Say "no" when you need to
"No" is such a powerful word, but many of us don't use it enough. You might feel you need to be the can-do "yes" person, taking on more projects, social activities, and responsibilities than you can handle to please the people around you. It's easy to give in to extra responsibilities, but taking on more than you can handle will only set you up for failure.
Believe it or not, saying "no" is good for your mental health. It helps you set healthy boundaries so you don't stretch yourself too thin. It's not negative or selfish—it's all about taking care of yourself.
4. Make mindfulness a part of everyday living
Mindful thinking and relaxation techniques aren't all about meditation or yoga. It can be as simple as spending 5–10 minutes of your day journaling, drawing, or taking a quiet walk outside.
One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is to put pen to paper and write your thoughts down at the end of each day. The simple act of writing can feel as though you're physically pouring your emotions onto a page, which can provide you with more headspace and clarity. When you stick to a journaling routine, you'll consistently improve your mindfulness skills and make positive changes in your mental health.
5. Remember that help is available
Your mental health is important at every stage of life—from adolescence through adulthood. And even though it might be tempting to push your mental health problems to the side for a happy, healthy holiday season, it's only going to make your problems worse. Whether you're navigating life after a traumatic event, managing bipolar disorder, or overcoming drug use issues, don't hesitate to reach out for some extra support this holiday season.
At Charlie Health, our virtual IOP connects clients to an online therapist for live therapy sessions. Unlike other online therapy platforms, our personalized telehealth services are designed for clients and family members navigating a time of crisis. Our expert mental health professionals will help you create an individualized action plan for your unique mental health needs so you can start making positive changes. Reach out today.