Is it here already? Are they over yet? Yes, it is here! The holiday season is after all the “most wonderful time of the year”, or is it? For some of us holidays with loved ones can be stressful, for others it can be a joyous time, while others may find it normal. Whatever it is you feel every holiday season, remember your mental health and wellness are important.
According to National Alliance on Mental Health, 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse (*1). While the holiday stress may be temporary, if no action is taken, it has the possibility of developing into mental health disorders even after the holiday season is over.
Here are some tips to help you manage your stress this holiday season:
1.) No Uncle Johnny, no!
Does Uncle Johnny want you to continue the family tradition of cooking a seven-course meal for all 57 of your family members? This is the year to set realistic expectations by telling loved ones that you will be starting a new family tradition. Focus on what you can do to make this holiday season the best it can be.
2.) Holiday Planner
Plan ahead. Try to space your plan and responsibility so that you don’t have to rush to complete them the night before. Prepare baked items and freeze them, set aside days to shop, and prepare a shopping list. Who says planning needs to happen the month or week off? Start early to help you decrease stress. There are a lot of online toolkits and applications that can help you plan your holiday celebration.
3.) Live. Love. Laugh.
I know it’s super cheesy, but it’s true. Live, breathe, and enjoy every moment of your life. Love yourself enough to make sure you are included in the list of priorities. Laugh it out when things don’t go as planned. After all, what is life without humor? Speaking of humor, make sure to add activities that make you laugh before, during, and after the holidays. Whether it’s a game, book, movie, or TV show, always incorporate laughter in your life.
4.) Thanks, Taylor Swift!
Shake it off like Mama Taylor told us to! Research shows that physical activity not only boosts your fitness and energy levels but can also elevate your moods (*2). No matter where you are in your physical activity level, always remember a little movement goes a long way. Start before the holiday season and continue right into and beyond the season. If the weather permits, enjoy a stroll in the park or a hike in the woods. Why not plan a dance party instead? Either way, move and shake off your stress.
5.) My Happy Tree.
When you are decorating your home, and perhaps your tree, make sure it is done for happiness, not perfection. You live in the house where the tree and other decorations will be residing for at least a month. No matter how the decorations are done, make sure it brings joy and happiness.
Whether this is your first year celebrating the holiday season in the United States or it has been a generational celebration, remember this season is about love, hope, faith, giving, and joy. This includes the love for yourself, the hope for your future, the faith you have in your overall health, the giving of self-love, and the overall joy of your well-being. Have a happy holiday.
Please remember help is available if you have suicidal thoughts, are feeling overwhelmed, feel you cannot cope or are using drugs or alcohol more frequently as a result of stress. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
1* National Alliance on Mental Health,. (2014, February 9). Mental Health and the Holiday Blues | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI. Retrieved October 22, 2021, from https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2014/Mental-health-and-the-holiday-blues
2* Guszkowska, Monika. “Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood.” Psychiatria polska vol. 38,4 (2004): 611-20.
Aruna Manisekaran, MPH,CPH, is the previous Public Health Educator at the Fishers Health Department. Aruna has her Masters in Public Health and Certified Public Health. As a Fishers resident, Aruna enjoys driving around to view the landscapes, the holiday lights, the parks, and the neighborhoods. In her spare time, she enjoys art therapy, making earrings, gardening, puzzles, cooking, baking, and binge-watching shows. She loves Fishers’ support for local businesses, the entrepreneurial culture, and the progressive thinking.