The most wonderful time of the year is known to prompt joy, but the reality is that it may evoke stress as well. While this season is often associated with splendid sentiments of love and happiness, for many others, unpleasant feelings may be sparked as well. From Thanksgiving preparations until we ring in the New Year, self-care is essential to protect yourself from the holiday blues.
Here are 10 tips to help you protect your mental well-being when facing the stress of the season:
1. Make time for you
During the holiday season, it’s common to experience a surge in activities on your social calendar. Quite simply, it’s hard to practice self-care without the time. Some strategies (i.e., breathing techniques) can be practiced while out and about, but self-care commonly necessitates a calmer, quieter environment. While some people may be fueled by the increased engagement during the holidays, if you lean more towards introversion, intentionally blocking time for yourself is essential. Even for the social butterfly, taking time for yourself is important to moderate the need for external validation.
2. Be true to yourself
The commercialization of the holidays paired with the highlight reels of social media provides the perfect formula for competition. Take time to align with your values, and recognize what is important to you. If you reflect on this at the beginning of the season, you can check from time to time to make sure you are aligning with your true self. For example, if a core value of yours is humility, it might be incongruent to compare your neighbor’s new faux tree with your 14-foot evergreen.
3. Build your emotional intelligence
Society typically frowns upon being connected to your emotions. People who are sensitive often feel weak and vulnerable. However, attuning your emotional awareness is helpful in being able to discern your needs and regulate accordingly. It’s common to feel overwhelmed by the energy of the holiday season. When you recognize this emotion, you may be tempted to sweep it under the rug. But it doesn’t go anywhere, and it may actually grow and overpower you. On the other hand, being able to tap into your feelings allows you to use your emotions as signals. Noticing when you begin to feel overwhelmed can help you to recognize that you can cope to bring yourself back to equilibrium. Perhaps this means taking a break from the conversation or clearing some time for you the next day.
4. Create healthy boundaries
Boundaries are essential for our mental well-being. During the holidays, it can be helpful to establish and honor your limitations with yourself. If you cannot respect your own boundaries, you pave an easy path for others to step over your parameters as well.
Let’s say, for example, that earlier in the year you crafted the intention to avoid fueling negative self-talk. While it may be more difficult during this season, maintaining your personal boundary is essential. Instead of deflecting a compliment with self-deprecating humor and opening the stage for being the butt of jokes that may permeate through your self-esteem, hold true to the boundaries you establish with yourself.
The holidays are often a prime time to practice your boundaries with others. Be mindful of creating bounds to repel toxicity, but caution letting negativity overshadow positivity. A common mistake in enforcing boundaries is that they can be so stern that we may end up neglecting healthy connections. While you may need to exercise restraint with the person who is nagging you about your personal life, know when it’s okay to let someone in who genuinely cares about you.
5. Focus on the present
The holidays can be a time that we reflect on the past including thoughts of the year behind us, the traditions that have evolved, the relationships that ended, and the lives that we have lost. It can also be a time that prompts worry and fear, from concerns about being in the presence of toxic people or what is to come in the year ahead. We cannot time travel to the past or future. Instead of revisiting the past or obsessing about the future, give yourself the gift of the present. Take time to set technology aside and immerse yourself in the present moment as the best version of yourself.
6. Learn to let go
Since 2019 saw a surge in self-care efforts across the globe, you may have made more intentional efforts for your wellness than ever before. If this is the case, you may feel more prepared to handle seasonal stress than ever before. However, don’t let the pendulum swing too far to the irrational notion that you now have full control over how the holidays go. Take a moment to think about what you can manage, and what you need to release.
7. Don’t force change
During the holidays many spend more time with their loved ones than in the months prior. For some this warmth and connection align well with self-care, but for others, seeing others’ journeys can serve as a distraction. Self-care does not mean that you have to isolate yourself from your loved ones, but it’s important to recognize when you prioritize someone else’s wellness more than they prioritize their own. There are ways that you can help a loved one who might need help, however, research has shown that behavioral change is complicated and cannot be forced.
8. Practice gratitude
Gratitude is a gift that can help us broaden our perspective. It’s an excellent coping skill because it can be practiced at any time and it doesn’t cost a dime. Thankfulness is a gift that you can give yourself, but you may also choose to share your gratitude with others as well. If you catch yourself falling into negativity during the holidays, try to reflect on all that you are grateful for, not to minimize your struggles, but to help you see what your struggles may be overshadowing. Choosing to share gratitude with others can improve bonding and can spark warmth in your holiday gatherings.
9. Consider closure
With the end of the year near, you may find yourself evaluating the months prior. As you prepare for the new year (and new decade) ahead you might realize that there are obstacles to your mental wellness that you have been carrying that you no longer wish to hold. Perhaps this is a conflict with a once close loved one or an unhealthy habit you wish to cease. If you are ready and able, this is a great time to practice forgiveness. If your hopes are high, but you believe you are lacking the ability to address this concern, it may be helpful to consider seeking professional assistance to help you achieve closure in the future.
10. Commit to growth
The holiday season is a common time for self-reflection. This is a good time for self-exploration as you acknowledge the year behind you and the fresh year ahead. How have you made use of your strengths? How have you worked on your personal growth journey? Take time to embrace imperfection. Accept that no one is perfect; however, remember that we all have the potential to grow. Instead of shaming yourself for the resolutions you abandoned in February, make note of all that went well and use the remaining gaps to empower yourself to set self-loving goals for 2020.