The holidays are stressful enough for people living without illness. When you have a health condition, or care for someone who does, the hustle and bustle of this time of year – plus the sky-high expectations for a magical time – can be physically and emotionally draining. We’ve rounded up self-care tips to help you tend to your mental and physical health.
1. Take stock of your feelings. If you’ve experienced a lot of losses or changes in your life since last holiday season, it’s natural to feel grief or some extra stress this year. Acknowledge and express your feelings. “You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season,” Mayo Clinic points out.
2. Connect with others if you’re lonely. If you’re feeling isolated, talk with a friend or family member, or find a local event to attend (such as a holiday concert or a volunteer/charity event, if you’re able). Also, touch base with your community on PatientsLikeMe and look for live-streamed concerts and events online (check out these 12 live-streaming apps) if your condition is keeping you at home these days.
3. Dial back expectations and plans. Be realistic about what’s possible for you this year. Sure, do the things that make you happy, but try to edit your usual holiday decorating, gift-giving, social and travel plans if you already have a sense that you can’t keep up (physically or financially) because of your condition. Talk with your most understanding loved one(s) and ask them to share with others that your plans and abilities might be a little bit different this year. Maybe a low-key gift swap or a holiday movie/takeout night is more your speed than your usual traditions involving travel or all-day cooking and entertaining.
4. Stick to a normal, healthy routine. As much as you can, try to keep your usual schedule, aiming for 8+ hours of sleep, regular physical activity (if that’s part of your routine) and a healthy eating plan (hint: avoid excessive alcohol and eat healthy snacks before parties and events so you aren’t as tempted to overindulge).
5. Take things one step at a time. Make a to-do list and stay in the moment to finish the task at hand. “If you’re making dessert for a work potluck, focus solely on that task,” Mental Health America advises. “Don’t think about what you need to do after, or what you have to do tomorrow. Just focus on the good smells coming from your cooking, and maybe even sneak a bite if it feels right. Trying to consider everything at once will only make you feel overwhelmed and stressed.” If you know that you feel better at certain times of the day, try to complete your tasks then.
6. Build in time for R&R. “Take time for yourself, but don’t isolate yourself,” the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says. “Spend time with supportive, caring people … Listen to music or find other ways to relax.” Don’t feel guilty about taking naps and squeezing in activities that make you feel happy, such as these sensory ideas member Laura (thisdiva99) shared earlier this year.
Holiday blues stats and facts
If you’re experiencing the holiday blues, you’re not alone. A NAMI survey found that 64% of people say they experience the holiday blues and 24% say the holidays affect them a lot.
NAMI defines the holiday blues as “temporary feelings of anxiety or depression during the holidays that can be associated with extra stress, unrealistic expectations or even memories that accompany the season.” Additional factors may include less sunlight, changes in your diet or routine, and even over-commercialization.
If signs of the holiday blues – such as feelings of loneliness, sadness, fatigue, tension and a sense of loss – extend beyond the holiday season or make your existing clinical anxiety or depression worse, talk with your doctor or a mental health professional. “However, short-term problems must still be taken seriously,” NAMI says.
How do you deal with the holiday blues or seasonal stress? Join PatientsLikeMe today to discuss ideas with the community!
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