It’s that time of year – the darkening days, twinkling lights, endless gift commercials, and holiday tunes on repeat (White Christmas doesn’t get enough love in my humble opinion). The most wonderful time of the year right? For some maybe, but for most people, this time of year is met with mixed emotions. According to a survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 64% of people with a mental health condition reported their symptoms worsening during the holidays, and this was before the pandemic. Loneliness, sadness, grief, and worry are just a few of the feelings many people experience during this time of year. For some, these emotions come in waves but for others they linger consistently. Below are a few tips we’ve curated from some of the great content available in NeuroFlow to help your overall wellness as you navigate through the holiday season.
Acknowledge your Feelings
Whether from social media scrolling or the constant commercials featuring smiling faces, society can pour on the pressure to put on a happy face during the holidays. Remember, it’s okay to not be okay. Name your feelings and offer yourself some grace and compassion to feel those feelings. For example, you might say “I don’t know why but I’m feeling really down today. I think I’ll take a walk to get some fresh air to see if that helps.” If journaling is something that helps you, maybe write down some stressors you feel around this time of the year. They could be related to family conflict, finances, or suffering a loss.
As people return to more in-person gatherings, you might be feeling overwhelmed to say “yes” to everything after missing out on so much last year. Make a plan that feels balanced to you and pace yourself so you don’t feel burnt out. As you look at your calendar, ensure you can schedule time for self-care. This could include exercising, listening to music, reading, or doing a favorite hobby. Think of at least two self-care activities you can do each week.
Some people feel especially triggered during this time if they are suffering from addiction or struggling with grief. Identifying your triggers ahead of the holiday rush can pay huge dividends. For example, if you know that your friend’s holiday party has a lot of alcohol you might make the choice to either not attend or bring an alcohol-free beverage. Or perhaps you have a support person who could accompany you to the party. If you’re struggling with grief and there are memories that seem to flood your mind during this time, give yourself some time and space. This might mean talking to a supportive person about your grief or it might mean giving yourself permission to cry in front of others without feeling guilty.
Some people practice gratitude by volunteering during the holidays. The simple act of giving back to others and building community helps improve your mood. If that’s not where you’re at, that’s okay. See if you can find small signs of gratitude each day. It could be the rare sunny day amidst all the rain or the smell of a freshly baked gingerbread cookie. Some days these gratitude thoughts might come easy and other days not so much. There’s no right or wrong way to express gratitude. Be open and see what you notice.
We’ve also made sure to create holiday-specific content available directly in NeuroFlow. This customized content addresses the wide range of emotions that people experience during the holidays and provides skills and resources to help overall wellness through evidence-based psychoeducational videos, journaling, and mindfulness exercises. We hope these tips can help you experience some joy this holiday season.