There’s no denying how special the holiday season is. It’s a time when you gather with loved ones to celebrate and spread love and cheer. But for many, the “most wonderful time of the year” brings on stress, anxiety, and depression.
The pressure of holiday planning, gift-giving, and social events is enough to make anyone feel like the grinch. On top of that, Christmas can be lonely, tense, or uncomfortable, depending on your relationship with your family.
This is why self-care must become your #1 priority - after all, your mental health has a direct impact on your physical health. So read on to discover 5 tips to lighten the mental load during the holidays and feel like you’re putting the “me” back in merry.
5 ways to put your mental health first this Christmas
1. Schedule “me” time
What does “me” time look like for you? Is it calling friends? Watching your favourite Netflix show? Or curling up with a good book? Whatever it is that brings you joy, try to schedule time to do it each day.
In a 2015 study (1), researchers found that those who engaged in quality “me time” had better psychological well-being, better work-life balance, and were more engaged at work.
But if you’re a busy parent, or work full-time, you might be thinking “I never have time for myself!” And we get it – sometimes it seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day to worry about self-care. Luckily, it doesn’t require a lot of time. Even taking 15-20 minutes per day to recharge your batteries will make a big difference in your overall health.
Here are a few ideas for your next me-time session:
- Plan a date night at home by yourself!
- Try breathing exercises for some quick relaxation
- Practice calming Yin Yoga poses
- Have a spa at home and make your own face & body scrub
2. Make something delicious
You’ve probably heard the quote “let food be thy medicine…” a dozen times. And while there’s no denying the powerful benefits of good nutrition, that age-old saying might mean more than you think.
As it turns out, it isn’t only healthy eating that’s good for you, it’s being in the kitchen! Research (2) shows that cooking and baking can have positive effects on your mental health.
Nicole Farmer, a doctor and staff scientist at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, says “Cooking gives us a feeling of autonomy and the opportunity to master something. It can give us a feeling of purpose and personal satisfaction.”
In addition, comfort foods like mac and cheese and cookies activate the brain’s reward system, meaning they literally make you feel good! So, are you ready to whip up something tasty? Discover this pick of 10 comfort foods made healthy in this article.
3. Get active, go outside
Did you know? Exercise releases endorphins (aka feel-good hormones) which trigger positive emotions and ease stress levels (3). But you don’t need to lift weights or run a marathon to boost your mood…
Yoga, dancing, or even a walk around the neighbourhood can really improve your mental health this Christmas. And if you’re able to exercise outside, you reap even more benefits.
Natural sunlight provides vitamin D – a nutrient responsible for keeping your health in check (4). It improves bone health, the immune system, brain function, and may help lower symptoms of depression. But fewer sunlight hours in the winter means you’re getting a lot less of this essential vitamin. Our advice? Try taking your lunch break outside, or soak up the sun with your morning cup of matcha.
Does this sound like you? One minute you’re catching up on the news, and the next thing you know you’ve spent over an hour doom scrolling. It seems like there’s another breaking news story every second - it’s almost impossible to keep up!
Although it’s important to stay informed, “information overload” can be dangerous for your mental health. And to protect your well-being, it may be time to set some bad-news-boundaries and start practising healthy phone habits.
Here are a few healthy ways to break the cycle:
- Leave your phone in another room
- Pause push notifications from news sources
- Save positive pages or accounts that lift your spirits
- Meditate instead of scrolling before bed
Looking to do a digital detox? Discover some tips for your time offline in this article.
5. Set boundaries
Do you find yourself saying “yes” to everything, then later stressing out about following through? Being a “yes” person isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can be overwhelming.
Committing yourself to something, only to avoid disappointing others, can end up causing you more stress and anxiety. Instead, try setting boundaries with your peers and loved ones.
According to psychologist and coach Dana Gionta, “Having healthy boundaries means knowing and understanding what your limits are.” Permitting yourself to say ‘no’ can be the easiest and most helpful way to reduce your stress this holiday season.
A little reminder before we send you off for Christmas: Be kind and patient with yourself. A lot comes together during a short time and many people feel on edge - you are not alone in this. So don’t be hard on yourself and accept the little imperfections that might come your way, but most importantly, take good care of yourself!