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Taking Care of Your Mental Health During the Holiday Season



With the holiday season getting under way, many of us are busier than usual. This can be especially true for moms and other care givers. Although you are busy this time of year, it is important to make sure that you are caring properly for your mental health.


You may think you don't have time to rest, enjoy the parties, or "indulge" in self-care, but the times you think you don't have time to prioritize yourself and your mental health are actually the most important times to do so.


There is this old Zen saying:

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes everyday - unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”―Dr. Sukhraj Dhillon

This is true for meditation, and also for life in general. It is easy to maintain a self-care routine when you aren't busy, but you need it the most when you are busy. Self-care isn't selfish. Taking care of yourself is crucial, and more so when you are taking care of others too.


Many times during the holidays, it is moms that are taking on a lot of the extra work, such as decorating, shopping, making goodies for the kids at school, and organizing all of the family activities. If you are juggling all this in addition to your usual duties, it can be easy to get overwhelmed with all of it.


It's no fun to burn out during the holiday season. Remember, YOU should be able to enjoy this time of year, too. It isn't just about the kids, or your obligations to your extended family. You are a worthy and valuable human being too, and you deserve to do some things to make yourself happy. Holidays should be a time of joy, but so often they become a time of stress instead.



Not all of us are lucky enough to come from a happy, well-adjusted, functional family. For some of us, our family is even a source of trauma. When this is the case, you will need to do extra work to either set boundaries, or avoid family gatherings entirely.


I spent 5 years earlier in my life not attending family holidays, because they were downright harmful to my mental health. I didn't need to watch my extended family get drunk, demean me, and fight with each other. Still, it wasn't easy to opt out of holiday traditions, and I had major push back from my mom and sister.


Instances like this can cause family feuding, but putting yourself first is important. And, if you have kids, you probably want to shield them from unhealthy family dynamics as much as possible. This way, you can create your own traditions either with your immediate family or with your friends (your chosen family).


Don't let other people make you feel guilty for not doing what they want over the holidays. This shouldn't be a time of guilt, fear and manipulation. It should be fun and joyous. So, if something doesn't bring you joy, I recommend opting out.



In addition to coping with stress of extra work around the house, or difficult family members, some of us also have worsening depression this time of year. It is easy to get depressed because it is cold, and there are fewer hours of sunlight in the day.


Make sure that you are taking care of any mental health issues as well. If you are seeing a therapist, make sure you keep up with appointments throughout the holiday season. If you don't have a therapist yet, I highly recommend finding one. It really helps to have someone in your corner during difficult times.


If you need additional support, you can also seek out a support group or a life coach for additional assistance. There are many spaces online that are safe for talking about mental health, and seeking out like-minded people can be extremely helpful when you are strugggling.


When you have depression symptoms, listen to what your body is telling you. Make sure you get enough rest, drink plenty of water, take your vitamins, and do everything possible to maintain your health. If your body is feeling well, it can help with your mental health, too.


Make Time for Genuine Connection


I mentioned earlier that you may want to set boundaries around how much time you spend with toxic people. On the flip side of that, it can also be beneficial for your mental health and happiness to spend time connecting with people who make you feel good about yourself.


This could be a favorite pet, your kids, your spouse, or your friends. There are some people who make you feel lighter and more yourself just by being around them. You could host a small gathering, go sing Christmas carols, or go to a craft fair or Christmas Market.


If your loved ones are far away, you can take some time to give them a call or have a video chat. Having genuine connection can help to recharge your mental batteries and leave you feeling good about life again. Relationships are an important part of our lives, and it is always important to nourish those relationships that feed your soul.


You can also make connections in your community through volunteering. There are many local and national organizations that need volunteers this time of year. You could also participate in a giving tree program, or donate canned food items for those in need. Spreading hope and kindness to others can help you feel better about yourself and your life too.


Conculsion


If the holidays feel like a stressful time for you, it is important to prioritize your mental health over anything else that is going on. Many of us try to put on our best face for other people, even when we are feeling awful inside. You shouldn't have to hide your feelings behind a mask. Take back control of the holidays, and do things that bring you joy.


It is ok to say no to requests or invitations and to make yourself the first priority. You don't want to go into the new year feeling burned out and on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Even if some of the people in your life don't make you feel like it, you are worthy. You deserve happiness. You deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. Your needs matter.


The holidays should be a time that everyone can enjoy. If you don't enjoy the ways you typically spend the holiday season, consider changing things up. This holiday isn't just about everyone else and their expectations, it is about YOU too!



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