Seven tips to manage your mental health during the holidays
The holidays can be a time for joy and connection with friends and loved ones, but they can also bring stress and sadness. Angela Drake is a clinical neuropsychologist at UC Davis Health. She has practical tips for getting through the emotional challenges of the season and specific tips for taking care of your mental health.
1. Manage holiday expectations
The most popular piece of advice Drake gives his patients is to figure out how to manage their expectations. “Often what we are experiencing is a disconnect between our actual situation and what we think it should be,” says Drake. during that time holiday, this can be especially serious. If someone grew up in an extended family, they may feel lost with a small gathering. Drake notes: “They’re comparing the two in their minds without even realizing it. She suggests focusing on what you’re grateful for in the present.
2. Let go of illusions
She also encourages people to manage their expectations of others. “We can all imagine that everyone is going to have a great time, but the reality is that there are often tensions within the family,” Drake said. “It probably won’t be a fantasy version of the holidays.” She says you can set your expectations by realizing some family members can always be tough. “You can’t control other people, but you can adjust your expectations and reactions, which can be powerful.”
3. Check yourself
One way to manage your reactions is to check in with yourself regularly. “It’s a way of your surveillance emotional status and see how you’re doing. You can think of it as a scale of stress, anxiety, or mood. You rank what you’re feeling from one to ten,” Drake suggests. “And when you’re at a certain level—whatever you decide—you take a break.” Listen to music, exercise. , take a deep breath (see tip #5), or do any activity or hobby they enjoy. Self-awareness so that people can take care of themselves before reaching the point of emotional breakdown (or boiling over).
4. Have a plan
In addition to regular self-monitoring, Drake recommends having a specific plan for what you’ll do if you feel stressed, sad, or anxious during the holiday. It could be calling a friend, going for a walk, turning on music, reading a book, or watching your favorite TV show. The activities are as personal as you are. “All of this is moving towards wellness,” says Drake. “It’s about being proactive and participating self careinstead of trying to ignore or suppress emotions, which usually only work in the long run.”
Drake uses a technique called diaphragmatic breathing to reduce stress and anxiety. It is also known as deep breathing or belly breathing. “You can take a deep breath anywhere and it doesn’t cost anything,” Drake says. She notes that people often “go, go” during the holidays and will try to get whatever they need done. “But then it exhausts them,” Drake added. “Deep breath, which keeps oxygen in your lungs, allowing for better oxygen exchange. The oxygen in your blood increases. And as soon as that happens, you start to relax.”
You can learn deep breath from free online tutorials and videos.
6. Share happy memories
In addition to stress, the holidays can also be a time of grief when people learn about loved ones who have passed away. “You don’t want to wallow in grief, but it’s not helpful to just ignore it because you’ll still feel it,” Drake said. One method she recommends is called reminiscence therapy. “The idea is to acknowledge the loss and grief but not wallow in the painful memories. Just focus on the happy memories,” Drake commented. “I encourage people to honor that person. Talk about them, reminisce, tell stories.”
7. Connect with the community
“Loneliness has” negative effects on health. The holidays can amplify loneliness, especially when people have no family or live far away from their family or friends,” Drake said, for those without a network of friends or support groups. , her advice is to get out, and she notes that people find community through many avenues, including churches, clubs, get-togethers, volunteering, cultural centers, centers LGBTQ center, etc. “Finding community is hard these days, but it’s very important. You talk to people, interact, and feel good about what you’re doing. And it’s good for you.”
Help is available by dialing or texting 988
If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis, you can contact help 24 hours a day, seven days a week by dialing or texting 988 from your smartphone. You can learn more about 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline on their website. website.
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