We all experience ups and downs in our mental health, but we don’t talk nearly enough about it. This can lead to burnout, poor performance, and lower life and job satisfaction.
In this three-part series by Negar Amiri of Hotel Furniture (part of the TCap family), we’ll explore how to: manage your sanity during the holidays; destigmatize mental health; and create a mental health first aid kit.
We’d love for you to share these posts with your tips and recommendations. The more we talk about it, the easier it will be for people to seek the help they need — just like any other health issue.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Well, mostly. Although the holidays can be filled with joy, December is also a month when our mental health can deteriorate. In fact, a study by NAMI found that 64% of people with mental illness felt worse during the holidays.
Sometimes we get so excited about the holidays that we forget to consider others’ circumstances. We’re thrilled to drive to our family’s house. We may even complain that we have to split our time between two households as we visit each family. Meanwhile, others may be struggling because they can’t get home to visit their loved ones.
December also feels like a race against time. At work, we try to condense a month’s worth of tasks into two or three weeks so we can spend the rest of the time with family or looking after kids. With this increased workload also comes the pressure to buy gifts, plan holiday parties, and arrange travel. Just writing about it causes me anxiety.
Coping with negative holiday emotions
First things first: do not avoid your emotions. Most of us have been raised to “act tough,” so any time we feel a negative emotion, we tell ourselves we’re fine and carry on. Well, these negative feelings build up until we break. Don’t let yourself reach that point. Identity and validate all of your emotions.
Next, practice self-compassion. This means stopping and recognizing that you’re stressed or anxious and you need to take care of yourself. News flash: you’re worth it. All the pressure is not.
Now we’re ready for self-care. Here are a few tips to help you get through the holidays with your mental health intact:
Prioritize and SLOW down. Even writing this makes me laugh, as I’m probably one of the world’s most impatient people and will run before I can walk. But during the holidays, more than ever, we all need to lower our speed limit. Make a list of everything you need to do and put the items in priority order. Delegate if possible. Then, work your way down through your list. Remember that the world won’t end if you can’t finish the 50th item. It can wait until January when everyone’s waking up from their holiday comas.
Fulfill your basic needs. The first of these are physiological needs — food, air, water, sleep. We need to meet these before we can tackle anything else. And the “air” portion shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s getting colder and darker, so we may avoid the outdoors. But nature is incredibly healing. Get outside and breathe some fresh air. As for the “food” portion, remember to not overeat. What we eat can either fuel our brain and promote better sleep or it can make us unfocussed and restless. Use food to your advantage.
Be budget savvy. Like point 1, we often try to stretch ourselves too thin when it comes to our money. We want to get the perfect presents and attend every holiday gathering. This can leave our wallets empty and our anxiety in overdrive. Despite what the media suggests, remember that no one expects gifts. The point of the holidays is to spend it with loved ones, not to drain your savings. With the delivery challenges and product shortages, you’re actually doing the world a favour by ordering fewer gifts. In 2019, Americans wasted $15.2 billion on unwanted gifts. If anyone complains about not receiving a gift, just remind them that your presence is the best gift.
As the world opens up again, let’s not forget what the pandemic taught us. Relationships, including your relationship with yourself, are more valuable than anything. The more you take care of yourself, the more you can serve and support others.
This holiday season, take the time to acknowledge your emotions, prioritize your to-do list, get out in nature, eat healthy, and spend mindfully.