MyMichigan Health’s behavioral health therapist says we need to remember to take good care of ourselves during the holiday season

The holiday season can be overwhelming, especially with stressors like house guests, shopping, cleaning, cooking, and even tense family dynamics.

When these stressors begin to accumulate, their weight can rob us of our usual ability to cope. If you find it difficult to take care of yourself during the holiday season or struggle to cope with the pressure, here are some tips to help you reduce stress and manage your mental health.

Acknowledge your feelings without judgment. Just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean you have to feel happy. If you can’t be with loved ones, lost your job, are grieving, or just feel down, remember that it’s okay to not feel happy.

Allowing yourself to feel your emotions without judging them as “right or wrong” is a healthy way to avoid further feelings of shame and guilt for the emotions you are experiencing.

Be realistic about what you can achieve. Many believe that everything must be perfectly organized and put together to enjoy the holidays. Putting extra pressure on yourself to be “perfect” often leads to burnout and frustration, with valuable time and energy being wasted on an unrealistic goal.

Use your personal values ​​to guide where it is most important to spend your time and energy, and then allow yourself the grace to accept progress over perfection in other, less important areas.

Avoid comparing yourself to others. It’s hard in the age of online influencers and content creators to avoid comparing ourselves to others, even more so during the holidays. Looking at curated images of smiling people on social media can often make you feel like everyone else has it together and you’re the only one struggling.

Remember that what you see online is often filtered to show only the positive, and many of these people are struggling to deal with the same difficult thoughts and emotions as you.

It’s okay to say no and set boundaries. Saying yes to every invitation, event or project can lead to exhaustion and burnout, especially during the holiday season when the demands become so overwhelming. Saying yes when you want to say no can also lead to feelings of resentment, causing you to go through the motions without any joy or satisfaction.

Truly supportive family, friends, and coworkers will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity and stick with you even if you can’t accommodate their requests.

Stay on track with healthy habits. The holiday season can be a time of overindulgence, such as overspending, overeating, late nights, and increased substance use. While it may be nice in the moment, overdoing it around the holidays can lead to disappointment and regret by the time the decorations are packed up and put away. Use moderation when enjoying the pleasures of the holiday season and remember to stick to established healthy habits in terms of diet, exercise and sleep.

Most importantly, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Despite your best efforts to manage stress during these busy months, you may find it difficult to escape the constant feelings of sadness, anxiety, despair and hopelessness. When these unpleasant emotions begin to negatively affect your sleep, work, relationships, physical health, and/or daily life, it’s time to reach out to the appropriate professional mental health treatment agency.

Be sure to use the advice, resources, and support available to you during the holiday season in hopes of minimizing stress and maximizing joy and fulfillment.

Amy Rae Kramer, LMSW, is a behavioral health therapist with the Partial Psychiatric Inpatient Program at MyMichigan Medical Center Midland.

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