How To Protect Your Mental Well-Being This Festive Season


November 19, 2018 - Tim Newman

A perfect world sees the holiday season filled with love, warmth, and happiness. However, more often, it is crammed with stress, exhaustion, and panic. Here, we offer some advice on how to bring a little calm back to the festive season.

How can we avoid the stress of the festive season?

I know it seems hard to believe, but we are, once again, fast approaching the holiday season.

Although millions of people across the United States and beyond are looking forward to the festivities, it can sometimes leave people feeling jaded and exhausted.

There are gifts to buy, family to visit, meals to cook, and events to plan and attend. Time is limited, money is tight, and the children won't stop crying.

Many people have stressful lives before the added pressures of the holiday season; sometimes, the extra cognitive weight can make them buckle.

A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that people in the U.S. are likely to feel more stressed around the holidays rather than less.

In this Spotlight, we cover seven simple tips that might help a person keep their mental well-being intact across this year's festive season.

1. A Family Affair

If you find your family challenging to be around, you are not alone. Make sure you set boundaries early on — stay for 1 night instead of two or three, for instance.

Instead of busting a gut trying to visit every relative across multiple states, limit who you go to see. Make apologies in advance to those who you might miss, and save yourself that 12-hour round trip.

You can visit great uncle Gordon in Alaska in the Spring; the weather will be more clement then, anyway.

This goes for all aspects of holiday planning: be realistic. Don't take on more than is comfortable. Not even a super hero could plan the office party, a family party, and the school Christmas play; then cook Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner, buy gifts for everyone, and still be smiling.

Don't be afraid to say "no" to some people; they probably won't mind — they might even be relieved.

If you do have to travel long distances, build in some wriggle room with the timings— if you expect delays, they won't seem quite as stressful in the likely event that they crop up.

2. Planning Cash Flow

It is very difficult to avoid spending too much money during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Gifts, food, drink, outings, guests, more food, more gifts; it quickly mounts up.

Although many people know they are likely to overspend during the holiday period, very few make sensible plans in advance.

This year, try to set a reasonable budget that you think you can stick to. Wherever possible, only spend cash or use a debit card. Credit cards might seem like a good idea when you are in full festive flow, but we all know they can come back to haunt us in the doldrums of January.

3. Alcohol Overload

There are many opportunities to drink alcohol over the holidays. Before the festivities begin, remind yourself that you do not have to drink alcohol at every single event.

Saying "no" can be tough but rewarding.

Try to make a plan before you arrive; decide what you will drink and when, and stick to it.

Perhaps decide to make every other drink a nonalcoholic drink. Pace yourself. This can be more difficult than it sounds, but it is worth it.

Excess alcohol often causes interpersonal problems that wouldn't have arisen otherwise, especially when people are feeling more stressed than usual.

During the aftermath of a night out, dealing with relatives or making plans might be much more challenging and stressful than they would have been otherwise.

Alcohol feels like it reduces stress at the time but, in the long run, it might make things worse.

4. Calorie Overload

There is no point pretending that we are going to stick to a pure and healthful eating regime for the entire holiday period. Anyone who can maintain dietary goals throughout the season receives a gold star but, for most people, it's just not a reasonable ask.

Don't put too much pressure on yourself to eat healthfully for the duration of the holidays. At the same time, make solid attempts to moderate yourself. Choose the more healthful option now and again, and don't go back for second helpings.

The guilt of falling off the wagon can really dent our happiness and confidence. Attempting to minimize this guilt will help your sense of mental well-being both during the holidays and well into the days and weeks that follow.

5. Don't Let It All Slide

Exercise routines tend to go out of the window, too. This, to a certain extent, is both understandable and acceptable.

We all need to take our foot off of the gas at some point during the year, so it may as well be while the weather is awful and there are plenty of good movies on the television.

That said, exercise is a great way to sharpen the mind and lift a person's mood.

This is the time of year when we most need a boost, yet most of us cut out physical activities entirely.

Be sure to cut yourself some slack, but also make sure to get some exercise when you can. Even light exercise, such as walking, can be enough to stave off the festive blues.

If you can, get out into nature; so-called green exercise has been shown to boost self-esteem and improve mood.



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Filed Under: Health | Healthy Lifestyle