While the holidays are often people's favorite time of the year, some people feel the opposite—especially if they are estranged from their family. Warm, friendly gatherings and cheerful festivities can seem overwhelming and cause depression in people who feel alone during this time of year. If you or someone you know falls into this category, check out these 10 helpful tips for taking care of your mental health during the holidays.
1. Acknowledge How You Are Feeling
Sometimes, the holidays can amplify feelings of loneliness and isolation. It may seem like everyone around you is celebrating with friends and family while you're all by yourself. While it is tough to feel like this, it's also perfectly OK. Acknowledging how you feel, rather than hiding it, can help ease your pain around the holidays. It's okay to take the time to cry, and feel angry, sad or frustrated. You don't have to hide your feelings just because the holidays are supposed to be cheerful.
2. Reach Out to Members of Your Community and Support Groups
You are not alone in feeling alone around the holidays. If you belong to a church or other religious group, seek comfort in them. A quick internet search can also show you support groups in your area. Being in the company of others who may feel the same way you do is comforting—and chances are, you won't feel alone at all. You may even make some new friends and people to confide in when difficult times arise.
3. Give Yourself Permissions to Let Things Go
The holidays can seem very overwhelming, so it's OK to simply live your life during this time, and let some things go. Make a list of what's important to you and check those things off your list. Which items on your list aren't a high priority? Is it making Christmas cookies for your office? Sending cards to everyone in your address book? While these are nice gestures, taking on too many tasks when you're feeling isolated during the holidays, especially ones that are holiday-themed, can make this time even more stressful and unbearable. Which brings us to our next point …
4. Learn to Say No
It's OK to say no to people during the holidays for the sake of your mental and physical health. Is your estranged cousin trying to get you to come to Christmas Eve dinner at their stepson's house? Is your grandpa who doesn't approve of your lifestyle going to be there? Is it high on your priority list to put your differences aside with these people? If the answer is no, it's OK to say decline the invite. Simple as that. During the holidays, you have to remember to take care of yourself first.
5. Take Care of Yourself
It's very important to take care of yourself in general, but if you get depressed around the holidays, it's extra important to do so. Make sure you get enough sleep. Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Get outside every day, even if it's just for a short walk around the block or, if the climate permits, sitting outside and reading a book. Treat yourself to something you love, like a glass of wine under a cozy blanket or a rejuvenating face mask. Self-care doesn't have to be extravagant and grand. It can be subtle. Most importantly, do what works for YOU.
6. Stick to a Budget
A lot of holiday stress falls in the financial vertical. We get it: The holidays are expensive. Are you supposed to buy gifts for everyone you know—like the neighborhood mailman, your favorite cashier at the local market, your landlord or even your sister you haven't talked to all year? Again, while that would be very nice and generous of you, it can be overwhelming. Set a realistic budget for yourself for the holidays and be sure to stick to it. If something is causing you stress and worry in your life, like wondering if you should send something to your estranged family members, acknowledge it and let it go (if you wish to).
7. Keep a Gratitude Journal
Every day, write down just one thing you're grateful for this holiday season. It can a beautiful snowfall, an adorable dog in a puffy coat you saw walking, etc. Recognizing just one beautiful thing a day will help keep your spirits up and remind you of the amazing blessings around you during the holidays.
8. Simplify Holiday Expectations
In the age of social media, it can be very depressing to look at everyone's seemingly "perfect holiday" pictures and feel like you're missing out on everything. Maybe you can't have an 8-foot tree decorated to the max, with Pinterest-perfect gifts wrapped under it, or a holiday feast fit for a family of king and queens. That's OK. Make a list of the important aspects of your holiday expectations. What's on it? A holiday dinner for you and a couple of close friends with untraditional holiday food? Great! Going caroling around your neighborhood with some folks from church? Amazing. Staying in by a warm fire, watching the Food Network with a bottle of wine and your dog? Perfect. Remember, you don't have to let others dictate how you are "supposed" to spend the holidays. Do what works for you.
Volunteering is not only a great way to give back to your community but also a great way to spend time with other volunteers, as well as those less fortunate than you. Helping others around the holidays feels good and gives everyone a sense of belonging.
10. Talk to a Professional
Therapists are there to listen and give you advice. Talking to a professional can help you work through your issues. Talk to your doctor if you need help finding the right therapist for you. Remember, you are not alone during the holidays.
Tips for taking care of yourself during the stressful holiday season when you feel depressed or alone.
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