For all of the merry parts of the holidays—seeing family members, opening gifts, and eating tasty food—there can also be a lot of stress involved. Whether you're dealing with packed holiday schedules, social anxiety, or feeling overwhelmed this holiday season, leaning into self-care methods can help you prepare for this time of year.
From carving time out of your busy schedule to seeking mental health support, here are some healthy lifestyle choices that can help you prioritize your mental health as we approach the new year.
During the holidays, you might feel an intense pressure to say "yes" to everyone. Remind yourself that you're only one person, and remember that agreeing to too many arrangements will only set you up for failure. Sometimes, taking time for yourself is the best thing you can do. The people around you will benefit when you're feeling less stressed, and you'll build resilience to manage any emotional strains life throws at you.
To set aside time for yourself, reflect on what makes you happy—whether that's going for a long walk outside, listening to your favorite music, or taking a bath. Self-care is all about finding healthy ways to recharge and replenish your mind and body, which can go a long way in improving your mental wellness.
At the end of the day, no Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other holiday celebration is perfect. Instead of viewing missteps as disappointments, use them as an opportunity to exercise your flexibility and resilience. Think about all the good things in your life, and recognize that these situations will pass. A burned casserole or lopsided tree won't ruin Christmas day—it can help create family memories you'll cherish for years to come.
When you're mentally preparing for a month's worth of holiday celebrations, last-minute shopping trips, and long checkout lines, it's easy to fall into unhealthy behaviors. Loading up on caffeine, not getting enough sleep, or not eating enough nutrient-dense food can all make you feel more anxious, so it's important to take care of your physical health in the upcoming months. Especially if you're living with a mental illness, such as an anxiety disorder or substance use problem, healthy lifestyle choices can contribute to sustained and positive mental health. And remember: when you're feeling stressed and overwhelmed, take deep breaths to clear your mind and stay in the present moment.
According to a Harvard University study, practicing meditation regularly can change your brain's structure for the better. The study found that people who regularly practiced meditation showed a decreased brain cell volume in the amygdala—the area of the brain responsible for emotions like fear, anxiety, and stress.
Meditation might seem intimidating, but it's all about finding what works for you. You might try meditating in a quiet, dark room or using a guided meditation app to learn helpful techniques. If you're short on time, try setting aside five minutes each day to clear your mind and free yourself of stress. And it’s not always about not thinking at all––sitting and paying attention to your breathing for just a few minutes can make a big difference, especially when done consistently.
The holidays can be exhausting, but you don't have to navigate them alone. If you're experiencing mental health issues or living with a mental health condition, don't hesitate to seek professional mental health support.
Whether you're living with severe depression, struggling with substance use, or experiencing panic attacks, professional mental health care can help you enjoy a happier, healthier holiday season. Talk therapy (psychotherapy) techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), offer a valuable opportunity to explore your mental health concerns, navigate your feelings, and learn healthy ways to cope with your symptoms in a safe space. Group therapy can be immensely helpful as well.
At Charlie Health, our intensive outpatient programs offer comprehensive mental health treatment for adolescents and young adults beyond traditional weekly psychotherapy sessions. Our mental health treatment programs are carefully tailored to meet each person's needs by assigning clients to therapists who understand their unique mental health concerns. Contact us today to take the first step in your journey toward mental wellness.