6 Tips for Managing Your Mental Illness During the Holidays
The holidays may always hold their place as the “most wonderful time of the year” in the collective imagination, but for many people, these weeks of preparation and celebration hold as much potential for stress and anxiety as they do for magical memories.
Even if you’re looking forward to holiday festivities with family and friends, your joyful expectation may be tempered by the inherent challenges of the season.
For some people, a jam-packed calendar of parties, concerts, and other celebratory events can make it more difficult to keep up with everyday responsibilities and basic self care. For others, the increased financial commitment of gift giving, hosting, or traveling can be a bit too demanding or even overwhelming.
Unrealistic expectations can push stress levels over the top, particularly for those who feel pressured to organize a flawless gathering or find the perfect present for every person on their list. For those who are missing loved ones, sentimental memories of past holidays can trigger feelings of sadness, loneliness, or depression.
For these and other reasons, many people experience increased levels of stress and anxiety during the holiday season. If you already live with some type of mental health condition, here are some things you can do to manage your overall well-being this holiday season.
1. Maintain your normal routine
The holidays are notorious for keeping you up long past your usual bedtime, enticing you to eat far more food than usual, and giving you an excuse to curtail your daily exercise routine.
Because maintaining control of your day is one of the best ways to minimize stress, do your best to stick to your normal schedule as much as possible throughout the holiday season.
2. Make self care a top priority
The holidays may be one of the busiest times of the year, but that doesn’t mean taking care of yourself should be low on your priority list.
Getting enough sleep, taking time for yourself, staying close with caring family and friends who understand your illness, and keeping any scheduled appointments with your therapist are just a few simple self-care strategies that can help you maintain optimal mental health through the holiday season.
3. Set realistic expectations
Unrealistic expectations are one of the biggest sources of increased stress and anxiety during the holidays. You can get yourself out of this negative space by consciously adjusting your outlook and setting realistic goals.
Whether you’re in charge of hosting a family gathering or you’ve decided to make exquisite handmade gifts for all your nearest and dearest, setting reasonable expectations and goals can help you navigate the pitfalls of trying to accomplish more than your time, energy, and resources allow.
4. Plan ahead and set a budget
After you’ve taken time to adjust your expectations for the holiday season, it can be extremely helpful to plan ahead, make concrete to-do lists, and set a budget.
To map out a holiday calendar that works well for you, try dedicating specific days or times to shopping, cooking, cleaning, visiting friends, and other important activities. Before you spend a dime on anything, set a practical budget and make a detailed list of exactly what you plan to buy, as well as how much it costs. Don’t forget to include miscellaneous seasonal costs, like travel, in your budget.
5. Don’t be afraid to say no
Nothing can leave you feeling more resentful, stressed, or overwhelmed like saying yes to something you don’t have time or energy for. That’s why, when you’d rather go home and recharge your batteries, it’s better to politely decline the last-minute invitation to that after-hours holiday party.
Remember, even if saying no feels awkward the first few times you do it, most people understand that you can’t participate in every activity or festivity.
6. Appreciate the moment you’re in
For many people, the holidays are a time when distant memories tend to resurface and linger, often giving rise to unexpected feelings and emotions that can be hard to work through. Instead of putting your sadness, grief, anger, or any other emotion you may be feeling to the side, acknowledge its presence and give yourself permission to work through it at your own pace.
To make the most of this holiday season, do your best to stay in the moment, appreciate what you have, and recognize that this year isn’t the same as previous years.
Here at Folsom Psychiatry Associates, we know just how challenging it can be to manage mental illness during the holidays. To get help with navigating the season successfully, call our office in Folsom, California, today, or use our easy online feature to book an appointment any time.