As the holiday season approaches, there’s a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air. However, for many, this time of year can also bring about a range of emotions and stressors that might impact their mental well-being. From family gatherings to financial pressures, the holiday season can sometimes act as a trigger for various mental health challenges. In this blog, we’ll delve into the importance of practicing mindfulness during the holidays, understanding triggers, and adopting strategies to safeguard your mental well-being. Let’s explore how you can turn this holiday season into a time of mindful joy and self-care.
Understanding the Landscape
While the holidays are often associated with joy and togetherness, it’s important to acknowledge the complex emotions they can evoke. During the holiday season, 62% of people reported that their stress levels were “Very or somewhat” elevated, while only 10% reported little to no stress levels, according to a 2015 survey by Healthline1. Clearly, the most wonderful time of the year can be not so wonderful for many people dealing with difficult situations. This uptick in stress can likely be attributed to various factors, including financial strain, increased commitments, family dynamics, and the pressure to meet expectations.
Mindfulness: Your Mental Health Anchor
Mindfulness, the practice of being fully present in the moment, can serve as an invaluable tool for navigating the challenges that the holiday season may bring. By cultivating mindfulness, you can create a mental space that allows you to respond rather than react to triggers. Studies have shown that mindfulness can significantly reduce stress and improve overall mental well-being2. The act of consciously acknowledging your emotions without judgment can help you better understand and manage your reactions.
One of the key aspects of safeguarding your mental well-being during the holidays is identifying triggers that might lead to stress, anxiety, or other negative emotions. Triggers can vary widely, from family conflicts and unrealistic expectations to financial concerns. By recognizing these triggers, you can develop a proactive plan to address them mindfully.
Practical Strategies for Mindful Holidays:
- Set Realistic Expectations: Rather than striving for perfection, set realistic expectations for yourself and your holiday celebrations. Understand that not everything has to be flawless, and it’s okay to ask for help.
- Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care by incorporating activities that rejuvenate your mind and body. Engage in regular exercise, maintain a balanced diet, and ensure you’re getting adequate sleep.
- Establish Boundaries: Boundaries are crucial for maintaining your mental well-being. Politely decline invitations or commitments that might overwhelm you, and don’t hesitate to take breaks when needed.
- Mindful Breathing: When you feel triggered, practice mindful breathing. Take slow, deep breaths to calm your nervous system and regain your composure.
- Stay Connected: Connect with supportive friends and family members who understand and respect your boundaries. Sometimes, a simple conversation can provide immense relief.
- Seek Professional Help: If the holiday season exacerbates existing mental health challenges, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. Therapy and counseling can provide valuable coping strategies.
As the holiday season unfolds, make a conscious decision to prioritize your mental well-being through mindfulness. Remember, your emotions are valid, and it’s okay to take steps to protect your mental health. By recognizing triggers, practicing self-care, and adopting mindful strategies, you can create a holiday experience that is more centered, fulfilling, and in tune with your mental well-being. Let this season be a celebration not only of joy and togetherness but also of strength and resilience.
- Harvard Medical School. (n.d.). Holiday Stress on the Brain. Retrieved from **https://hms.harvard.edu/news-events/publications-archive/brain/holiday-stress-brain#:~:text=Sixty-two percent of respondents,no stress during the season**.
Davis, D. M., & Hayes, J. A. (2011). What are the benefits of mindfulness? A practice review of psychotherapy-related research. Psychotherapy, 48(2), 198–208. doi: 10.1037/a0022062