Managing Stress During the Holiday Season
Everyone feels overwhelmed now and then, but know that you aren't alone. Many people experience elevated levels of stress during the holidays. In fact, prolonged exposure to stress can negatively impact your mental health. Follow these tips to help you stay present and give yourself the gift of peace of mind during the holidays.
The Connection Between Stress and Mental Health Disorders
While small doses of stress are normal, prolonged exposure to the body's stress response can be detrimental to your health—including your emotional health. Evidence suggests that chronic stress can increase the risk of developing mental health issues like anxiety and depression. This is because the body's stress response can actually change the way the brain functions.
Prepare Coping Techniques for Known Triggers
Knowing what situations trigger negative emotions for you is an important part of looking after your mental health. But, unfortunately, you can't always avoid the things that trigger distressing emotions. Take the time to look through your holiday plans and outline any specific events that may be difficult for you, and prepare your go-to coping techniques beforehand.
Rather than pushing your feelings off until later, knowing what you can do to soothe yourself at the moment can make all the difference! Whether you need to excuse yourself for some fresh air or head to the bathroom to practice some deep-breathing exercises, explore different coping techniques to help you feel more at ease.
Take a Long Walk
When you're feeling overwhelmed, it's a good idea to excuse yourself to step back from your current situation temporarily. Taking a walk alone, or even with a loved one, can help to ease negative emotions and allow your mind to relax and reset. Whether you prefer to take a scenic walk along a trail at the park or take a stroll around your neighborhood, walking is an excellent way to cope when feeling a bit overstimulated.
Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
A simple way that you can help to relieve stress and quiet an overactive mind is through practicing progressive muscle relaxation. This is a relaxation technique that involves flexing and relaxing various muscle groups throughout the body in a specific sequence to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety.
To practice this relaxation technique, find a quiet space where you can lay down and be alone. As you move through each muscle group, tense your muscles for about 5 to 10 seconds, inhaling as you flex and exhaling as you relax.
Work your way through these muscle groups, one at a time starting from your toes:
- Flex your toes
- Flex calf muscles
- Flex our quads
- Ball up your hands
- Flex our biceps
- Flex your abdominal muscles
- Raise your shoulders to your ears
- Purse your lips
- Open your mouth
- Tightly close your eyes
- Raise your eyebrows
Try Keeping a Journal
While you may have kept a journal to let out your innermost thoughts and secrets in your younger days, writing out your feelings can prove to be a cathartic experience. Writing out particularly distressing thoughts and emotions is an excellent way to vent and release overwhelming emotions without the fear of judgment from others. The next time you're feeling low, pick up a pen and your thought-journal and write away!
Set Aside Some Time to Be Alone
With so much pressure planning extensive dinners, buying gifts, and other festivities, the holidays are centered around spending time with loved ones. But it’s just as important to spend quality time alone. Remember to set aside some time for you to decompress to avoid feeling overwhelmed or burnt out.
Some of the ways you can work “me” time into your holiday schedule include:
- Taking a long shower or bath
- Listening to soothing music
- Trying yoga or meditation
- Reading your favorite book
- Taking a long walk
- Trying a new hobby
- Brewing yourself your favorite cup of coffee or tea
- Going for a bike ride
Be Patient With Yourself
If you find yourself struggling with your mental health during this time of year, take a moment to reflect and acknowledge how far you’ve come. Remember that taking the time and effort to better your mental health is no small feat. You are strong and courageous, even if you temporarily find yourself stepping outside of the path toward wellness and recovery.
Some simple ways that you can give yourself words of encouragement include:
- Writing positive affirmations on sticky notes and leaving them around your room for yourself to read
- Writing 3 things you’re proud of yourself for each day
- Keeping a journal so you can actually see how much you’re changing
Remember the Reason for the Season
While it’s easy to get caught up in gift-giving, decorations, and decadent dinners—it’s important to remember that the holidays are about togetherness and gratitude. Try to shift your focus away from impressing others and focus more on sharing love and positivity with friends and family. Maybe even start a new tradition of sharing what it is you are all thankful for!
Mental Health Resources Available at Tapestry
At Tapestry, our treatment programs are designed to provide our clients with individualized care while acknowledging their unique life experiences. Our staff members are also dedicated to understanding and treating our clients as whole people.
Whether you have questions about mental health or how to support a loved one struggling with their mental health, we are here for you. Contact us today by filling out a confidential form or give us a call at (844) 299-1343.