Guest post submission by Jayna Nickert, MFT on behalf of Focus Essentials:
Well, it’s officially happening… it’s beginning to look a lot like winter… We’ll soon be gathering with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, and as soon as the pumpkin pie is served the holiday season will be here for the rest of the year. I don’t know if anyone else was bothered by this, but stores have been carrying holiday merchandise since early October. Can we please just get through one holiday at a time? Those are my thoughts on the matter anyway, but perhaps that’s just because the holidays have long been a difficult time of the year for me. I know that in saying this I’m certainly not alone. The holiday season is difficult for many people. Is it the weather, the lack of sun, or the torture of having to listen to the same music that’s been playing on a loop for longer than we’ve been alive every year that gets to us? Or perhaps it’s because it’s a time of year when drinking and indulging tends to increase, and if we had any past conflicts surrounding family or our childhood—especially past conflicts or traumas that happened during the holidays—this season can trigger us in ways we tend to forget about all year until we hear that “Santa Claus is coming to town.”
I’m definitely not a Grinch, please don’t get me wrong here. I thoroughly enjoy the act of giving to others and counting my blessings during this time of year. I do think we should do this year-round, but there’s a certain magic in the air surrounding this season. I enjoy gathering with those close to me this time of year, sharing love, eating good food, decorating everything with lights and sparkle, giving to those in need, and exchanging gifts. This is also a beautiful time of year to celebrate miracles, love, joy, and spreading light to the world, while celebrating the many sacred events we honor during this time of year according to our religion, culture, and spiritual belief system. Despite all this magic in the air, this season is still very difficult for me, and many others across the country. This is likely due to a combination of all the things I mentioned above, and then some.
For me personally, I know exactly where my issues stem from. When I was six years old, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer during the holidays. This was a scary, traumatic time for my entire family. The holidays are also difficult for me because my father passed away when I was younger, and all of my grandparents have also passed, so I tend to miss them all a bit more this time of year. I am very thankful for my family that is still here, and while I cannot spend the holidays with them every year, they are always in my heart.
In terms of the general population… depression, anxiety, and stress are definitely increased during this time of year for many. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 64% of those with a mental illness report that the holidays exacerbate their symptoms, or increase their mental health stress. Now for those of you who currently suffer from symptoms of depression, anxiety, trauma or stress, the holidays have the potential to trigger some of these things for you. The good news is that despite the feelings and past traumas the holidays may unearth, there are natural ways to help keep your mental health at a stable level, and bring yourself back down to earth should you become a bit carried away with anything this time of year. So without further ado, let’s dive into some ways to help manage anxiety, depression, and stress this holiday season.
Cultivate a Mindset of Gratitude
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to start making lists of everything you’re thankful for. This can be so healing—taking the focus off what you cannot control and learning to appreciate all that is around you and all you’ve been blessed with. Keep this tradition going throughout the year and you’ll be well on your way toward feeling happy and grateful throughout the day.
Do Something Kind for Another Person
When you’re feeling down, sometimes it can help cheer us up to take the focus off ourselves for a while and focus on the needs of others, and the holidays are the perfect time to start doing so. Perhaps you’ll decide to volunteer at a soup kitchen, start a food drive for the hungry, raise money for a charitable cause you’re passionate about, or gather presents to give to orphans. Realizing that there are others in the world who have it a lot worse than we can help us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and plant seeds of joy in our hearts. When we see other people smile and feel thankful for the love and energy we’ve shared with them, we can’t help but feel warm inside.
Take a Vacation
Sometimes the holidays can be painful reminders of things we’ve been through in the past, like a divorce or death of a loved one. Pulling out the holiday decorations can bring up painful triggers such as old family photos, or ornaments that belonged to the person you’ve lost. There may also be community traditions or feelings in the air that come with the weather that can trigger us and remind us of the past. For some, it may behoove us to get out of our norms this year and do some traveling. Spending the holidays in the tropics, or somewhere you’ve never been before can give you in an influx of fresh, new energy that makes letting go of old hurts much easier.
Start New Traditions
Sometimes reliving the traditions that surrounded painful memories, or memories of someone you’ve lost can be unbearable. Use this moment to start new traditions that celebrate things you’re thankful for about your life now. If you haven’t had the chance to think of any new traditions, get in touch with a friend or two and brainstorm some ideas. With the right social support, you can overcome any obstacle this year. If you’ve been feeling a bit isolated lately, think of some ways to start meeting new friends this holiday season. Perhaps a singles cruise is in your near future. 😉
Self-Care, Self-Care, Self-Care
One of the most important things to do for your mental health this season is to indulge in as much self-care as you can. Give yourself extra time to hit the gym more frequently than you might normally, allow yourself to sleep in if you need to catch up on your rest, and spend sufficient time doing things you enjoy. Pamper yourself this time of year. Take bubble baths, get pedicures, and be kind to yourself when you decide to indulge in some holiday snacks. Feed yourself with healthy foods first-most, and love yourself. You deserve all the love you can give yourself this year, so make some time to soak in some peace and serenity with a nice dose of some of your favorite things.
Don’t Be A Vampire
This may mean different things to different people, but ultimately I mean do not hide yourself away from the sun and the rest of the world. Get outside, show your smile to others, and shine your light in this world. There are others who may not be feeling so great either who’ll be positively affected by you if you don’t hide your light from them. Sometimes we forget how important we are to the world, no matter how small of a ripple effect we may create. It doesn’t matter how small it is, we’re all connected and we’re all impacted by each other, so spread some positivity in the world, and it will surely come back to you.
Nourish Your Body and Mind
I know I already said to feed yourself healthy foods, but beyond this, you want to ensure you’re getting the right balance of micronutrients needed for optimal brain and body function. This means that you should be getting all of your essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids each and every day. Getting the right blend of micronutrients can be difficult for some, depending on dietary restrictions, lifestyles, etc. One great way to ensure you’re maintaining the appropriate nutrient balance is by taking a micronutrient supplement. Focus Essentials makes one such supplement which I’ve found to be superior to others on the market. It’s designed for optimal absorption and health benefits, and has been found to be an effective tool for managing depression, anxiety, and stress.
I hope these tips have helped some of you to start planning the most wonderful holiday season yet this year. I know I’m planning to do a bit of each of these things this year to make this the best possible season for myself and those I care about. Don’t forget that there is support out there if things ever do get too heavy for you. You don’t have to carry all of the weight of it alone. Reach out to someone, be it a friend, a religious leader, support group, therapist, counselor, or a support hotline. The more you start to do some of these things, the easier getting through this season will become. Before you know it, you just may find yourself smiling a lot.