How To Keep Your Mental Health In Check During The Chaos Of The Holidays
‘Tis the season for awe-inspiring lights displays, endless indulgent food options and a house cram-packed with all of your relatives. While much of the holiday feels bright and cheery, it can be all too easy to become overwhelmed, overstimulated, stressed out and anxious — especially when it feels impossible to break away from group activities for a single moment of alone time. So if you’re at all introverted, energy sensitive or just not the biggest fan of spending every waking moment with your challenging family members, here are some helpful tips for keeping your sanity going strong this holiday season.
Set several check-in moments with yourself throughout the day.
Even if you can only accomplish these self-assessments when you go to the bathroom (we hope you can at least enjoy this private moment solo), make sure that you use it to your advantage. Close your eyes and take several long, deep breaths, counting to five on your inhale and again throughout your exhale. Then open your eyes and honestly ask yourself how you’re feeling.
If you’re a natural empath, meaning you are an emotional sponge a lot of the time and easily absorb the feelings of others (often times without realizing it), these check-ins are vital for separating your personal experience from that of the people by which you’re currently surrounded. By confirming and focusing on the fact that you are actually feeling a little tired but still grateful, you can notice that the negativity and cynicism emanating from your Uncle Lewis really does belong to him and only him instead of allowing those bad vibes to creep into your psyche.
Be mindful of your emotional labor.
Many of us take on additional emotional labor during our everyday lives — at home, at the office, you name it. And that tendency can skyrocket around the holidays if you aren’t careful. So as you make time for your little check-ins with yourself, also evaluate how many extra little things you’re taking on in the name of navigating space as easily as possible with other people.
What are you doing to make sure your mom doesn’t fly off the handle after one too many cups of spiked eggnog? Whose needs are you anticipating and constantly trying to get ahead of so the days remain full of Christmas cheer? Even when you have the best intentions, these moments of emotional labor can add up, leaving you feeling physically exhausted and mentally wrung out. It’s okay to help others, but make sure you’re taking care of your own needs first.
Openly communicate your needs to others.
When things on our to-do lists start piling up, it’s very easy to let waves of stress crash over our heads rather than stop and communicate our limits to those around us. But if there’s ever a time to make your needs known, it’s now. Because as much as you might wish it, your relatives aren’t mind readers. They do need you to speak up when you need help with certain tasks so everything can get done with the least amount of panic possible, and they need you to notify them when you just need a moment to yourself so you don’t come off passive aggressive or pissed off.
People pleasers tend to struggle with this kind of communication because they worry significantly about how it could make others feel, but sometimes, you need to make it about you first and worry about everyone else later. Plus, the vast majority of the time, people appreciate this direct communication and it leaves the social dynamic much healthier than it would have been otherwise.
Snag some alone time at the end of every day.
The holidays are all about togetherness… until it’s finally time to hit the hay. So at the end of the evening, excuse yourself from family activities slightly earlier than you typically would (we’re talking 15 minutes here) so you can have some quiet moments of reflection with yourself before turning out the lights.
In these moments, it’s especially helpful to try a visualization practice. As you inhale, imagine you’re bringing a sense of calm into your body. As you exhale, try to watch any sense of negativity leave your body with your breath. Then start sliding through your mental snapshots of the day that filled you with the most joy and hope. And before you drift off to dreamland, create detailed visualizations of what you anticipate in the next day of festive activities. It’ll help you wake up knowing exactly what you’re excited to experience and stay that much more grounded, present and positive through it all.
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