December 19, 2019
Make YOU a Priority This Holiday Season
Welcome to the holiday season! During the holidays, we tend to worry about weight gained from holiday feasts, money spent on holiday gifts, and cleaning before hosting holiday parties. What many don’t address is the effect the holiday season has on our brain, and how much our physical health and mental well-being rely on each other.
Approximately 20% of U.S. adults experience mental illness in a given year, according to a 2017 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. That’s 46.6 million people who are affected, nearly the equivalent of the residents of Wisconsin, Florida, and New York combined.
Stress is one of the factors that can lead to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Sometimes we can manage stress by venting to a friend or checking off a few big items on the to-do list, but it’s not always that easy to fix. Stress itself isn’t technically considered an illness; however, according to the Mayo Clinic, if you don’t manage your stress properly, it can contribute to a variety of both physical and mental health problems.
It can be especially challenging to prioritize your health during the holidays when the weather provides less opportunity to get outside and more opportunity for excused sluggishness. It’s okay to give yourself a break now and again. But you should not ignore your health from the time the first snowflake hits the ground to the day your favorite spring flowers are in full bloom.
That being said, here’s our list of tips to help you stay on top of your mental health amidst the busy and stressful holiday season:
Hit the Books
An easy and inexpensive way to unwind from the holiday stress is to get lost in a good book. Start by making yourself a book list for the year. I live and die by the app Goodreads, which is the social media site for bookworms. After you rate books you’ve read, you will receive recommendations on what else you might like, and you can create a list of books you want to read in the future. It also allows you to “follow” friends so you can see what they’re reading.
Once you have an idea of what you’ll be reading, you can start looking at ways to source the books on your list. Kindle, Nook, and Google Play Books are reading apps that give you free access to eBooks right from your phone, tablet, or laptop. Another free and easily accessible resource is your local public library, which will provide you with the desirable physical touch and smell of books. You might even consider visiting your local Goodwill store. I purchased almost every single book I own at a discount store for under $1.50.
Start a Journal
Another simple way to free up your mind during the busy holiday season is to write in a journal. Consider writing down one thing you’re grateful for every day. Then, if you find yourself bogged down in stress, go back and read about all of the good things in your life.
You can also explore your creativity with free writing! Whether you write down what you’re feeling at this very moment or you decide to write the next best-selling novel, putting pencil to paper has proven to have therapeutic effects. If you’re feeling stuck, search “writing prompts” online to help get your creativity flowing. Writer’s Digest, Pinterest, and many other sites have fun ideas to beat writer’s block.
Harvard Medical School says that music heals, and they have plenty of research to back that up. The evidence shows that music can help improve both physical and mental wellness. A few of the many studies on the healing powers of music presented positive results such as improved outcome in invasive procedures, restoration of lost speech, reduced side effects of cancer therapy, and improvement of the quality of life for dementia patients. Plus, listening to music takes minimal effort. Whether you’re making dinner or gardening, find a way to play some tunes.
Another option is to bust a move while you listen to your favorite song! According to WebMD, the incorporation of dancing benefits your heart, builds strength, and aids in your balance and coordination.
Seventy-two percent of Americans have felt stressed about money during the past month, according to the American Psychological Association. Counteract that stress by creating a budget for yourself! First, identify the cost of your “life essentials,” such as rent and grocery bills. Once that’s laid out, determine how much you have leftover for holiday gift spending. Though it’s tempting to spend your entire paycheck on gifts, your loved ones will appreciate that you’re prioritizing your needs first. Plus, when you’re in touch with your budget, you’ll be more prepared when fluctuations in your spending and financial surprises arise.
Busy-Store-Anxiety is a real thing. If you don’t believe me, go to Costco on a Sunday morning and tell me how it makes you feel. You don’t want to explode before making it through the holiday season, so it’s essential to plan your holiday shopping. In addition to mapping out your gift-giving list, you should plan for the special holiday meals you’ll cook. It’s not a bad idea to plan your shopping trips for a weekday to avoid the hectic and sometimes aggressive holiday shoppers.
Last but certainly not least: if you’re feeling anything but “normal,” do not be afraid to reach out. There is no shame in admitting you need a little help with organizing your thoughts. Reaching out may involve confiding in family or friends to vent or gain insightful advice. Or, reaching out can mean seeking a professional’s assistance. Therapists, psychologists, and other medical professionals spend years training to be able to help others through mental challenges. Lean on them and take advantage of their expertise.
Maybe you’re feeling great this winter, but you notice a friend or family member is a little under the weather. Be sure to check-in with that person. Sometimes people are uncomfortable asking for assistance and need the push of someone they trust to get them the help they need.
Incorporate these six strategies into your life and focus more on YOU this holiday season. As a result, you’ll enter the New Year feeling healthy and strong, both physically and mentally.
We hope you have a safe and stress-free holiday season!