The holiday season is fast approaching, which has many people feeling increased levels of stress, anxiety, sadness, and loneliness. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 38% of people said their stress increased during the holiday season, and a study from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that almost 64% of people with mental illness said the holidays made their condition worse.
While navigating family dynamics, financial issues, travel, and social gatherings can make it challenging to cope with these ups and downs, there are practical ways we can manage these feelings.
David Bond, director of behavioral health at Blue Shield of California, shares advice on how to approach and navigate these potential holiday stressors:
- Manage expectations. Tis’ the season to let go of perfection. Be gentle with yourself and balance your expectations with what is realistic.
- Make a plan. Allow space this season for more meaningful experiences. Rather than trying to fit everything into the last few weeks of the year, plan two or three meaningful ways to connect with the people who mean the most to you.
- Practice self-care. Follow the three Ps of self-care during the holidays to maintain good health for your mind and body: personalized, preventative, and practical.
- Personalize your self-care with activities, rest, or treatments that are unique to your preferences and that nurture your well-being.
- Be practical. There’s no need to add financial stress to the holidays when engaging in self-care activities. Finding easy and inexpensive ways to connect with yourself can be as simple as spending time in nature, creating a healthy morning routine, or watching a favorite movie.
- Preventative. Creating a simple daily routine that fulfills your basic needs can help reduce feeling overwhelmed. Basic needs include eating foods that are good for your body and mind, drinking plenty of fresh water, and getting ample rest. This helps to create balance in the mind and body.
- Move your body. Actively scheduling and participating in regular exercise before, during, and after the holidays is a healthy way to keep stress at bay. During exercise, your body releases dopamine and endorphins and pumps nutrients into your cells, which can boost mood and reduce stress. Pay attention to the physical and emotional sensations in your body and get moving. The best exercise is the exercise that works best for you.
- Learn to say no. Trying to “do it all” during the holidays can make it difficult to say no. Identify what’s most important to you this season, both emotionally and financially, and say no to the rest. Avoid what you know to be toxic.
- Volunteer. Helping others can have a profound effect on your mental health. According to new research, volunteering boosts mental health and improves overall health. Visiting the elderly, writing letters to soldiers, or walking a dog at a local kennel are all valuable ways to contribute to your community and your health this holiday season.
Remember to take time for yourself every day. Know that it’s ok to feel how you’re feeling and that others are likely going through similar stressors during the season. Be gentle with yourself and lean on your support system. There’s no shame in asking for help.
- Mental health resources for Blue Shield members can be found here.
- In addition, many Blue Shield of California members have access to the Wellvolution app with lifestyle-based tools to help lose weight, treat diabetes, and support mental health. It includes tools like Headspace, which offers scientifically-backed meditations for a quick breather. Visit wellvolution.com to learn more.
- If you or a loved one are in crisis, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 9-8-8.