Do you find yourself in a winter wonderland or wondering where your mental health will land this winter? Though holiday cheer has its ways of filling our hearts and homes, the holiday season is not without its stressors. Amongst the season of giving, giving to ourselves tends to come second–if at all. In search of the perfect present our minds drift further away from the present causing our mental health to unravel. Your mental health could use some extra tender love and care during this busy season. Here at Awakened Path, we would like to gift you 3 super tools to support your mental health this holiday season – Self-care, Self-Awareness and Mindfulness.
Mental Health & the Holi-daze
Holi-daze is not a clinical term or diagnosis but it describes how many of us feel during and post holiday season. Increased stress, overwhelm, confusion, and low energy or mood. Even in the magic of the most wonderful time of the year, we can all agree that emotions are heightened.
Depression and/or anxiety are not strangers to this time of year. Sadness, overwhelm, and stress can negatively impact our mental health as we acknowledge individuals grieving the loss of loved ones or mentally preparing to interact with dysfunctional family members. While this season is supposed to feel joyful and exciting, it can also bring on over-extension and over-commitment.
We encourage you to enjoy time with loved ones, every yes to a holiday commitment is a no somewhere else. This year at Awakened Path, we want to remind you to say “yes” to yourself just as much if not more during this holiday season to protect your mental health. Continue reading as we offer you super tools to support your mental health with self-care practices, mindfulness techniques, and increased self-awareness tips.
“By making time for self-care, you prepare yourself to be your best so you can share your gifts with the world. Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. Self-care isn’t selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” — Eleanor Brownn
Sometimes, self-care looks like taking a day off of work for a spa day. But most days it’s mundane tasks like quality sleep, exercise, hygiene, eating a balanced diet, journaling, or talking to a friend. Self-care is the process of engaging in healthy consistent habits to optimize your well being and promote physical, emotional,spiritual, and mental health. More simply put, it’s devoting the time and effort to care so deeply about yourself that you engage in behaviors that increase your quality of life.
Setting time aside to prioritize self-care practices can be challenging enough. Now toss in our already busy schedules–maybe self-care can wait until after the holidays, right? Not quite. It is actually the superpower that protects your mental health. Studies show that 38% of individuals feel an increase in stress over the holiday season, neglect self-care, and find themselves feeling depressed and anxious.
With intentional self-care practices, participation in the season of giving can still be on the agenda this year if you take time to fill your cup rather than only to empty it. Make a self-care list and check it twice. Choose to be nice to yourself and invite self-care to town.
Here are a few holiday self-care tips to help you get through this season:
- Stick to your daily routines: Routines bring structure and balance into our lives. While it may look different during the holiday season, try your best to prioritize your daily rituals. They can be modified accordingly. For example, perhaps your yoga studio is closed and you can’t take a yoga class. Make an effort to practice at home even if it’s for only 15 mins. Be intentional about doing the things that make you feel good before giving to others.
- Gift within your budget: Although it feels good to show appreciation through gifting others, overspending is a big stressor around this time of year. Many of us struggle to pay off the holiday debt. Find ways to be creative in giving to others. Secret santa is a great option to ensure everyone gets a gift and can be budget friendly. For those who have larger families (or more kids), communicate with your family members. It is likely that they are feeling similar pressure and would be relieved in compromising and collaborating budget friendly ideas.
- Schedule time for yourself: Put it on the calendar and make it a non-negotiable. Running around through crowded stores and getting caught up in holiday traffic is inevitably going to take up more time than anticipated. Be mindful about what is outside of your control and take control where you can. Plan ahead to ensure you make time to care for yourself.
- Have self-compassion: The only real rule for the holiday season is to do your best to love yourself just like any other time of year. The pressure to indulge in the holiday cheer often adds to our anxiety and stress. Be kind to yourself especially if there is some pain around this time of year. Speak to yourself the way you would speak to someone else who is having a difficult time with patience, empathy and active listening. Connect with one of our trained therapists to support you in your search for self compassion.
Before delving into practical tools you can implement– we first encourage you to take internal inventory. Negligence of our self-care is one factor of our stress but not the only one. For the readers thinking, I practice self-care during the holidays, why am I still stressed? – keep reading and consider asking this question instead: How present am I during my self-care practices? Self-awareness and mindfulness can help us make the most of our self-care time.
Famous author and poet Maya Angelou quotes “You can’t really know where you’re going until you know where you have been.” In order to gain control over your mental health this holiday season, begin with looking inward and getting curious (not judgemental) about your thoughts and feelings. Part of prioritizing self-care is allowing one-on-one time with your mind, body, and spirit. Try to be as honest as possible about the data you are collecting. Remember that even “bad” days give you information about how you can improve your life. Self-awareness is your friend and supporter in taking care of your mental health. Not only will it be beneficial for decreasing stress this holiday season, but it can be a catalyst for your expansion.
Prompts to enhance your awareness can include:
- What did I do today to take care of myself?
- What did I do for my mind, body, and spirit today?
- How did I feel before, during, and after my self-care practice?
- What was challenging about completing my self-care practice today?
Mindfulness is often known for deep breathing or meditation. Though those practices are highly recommended, there are benefits in being present through tasks you are likely already doing. Confidence in integrating mindfulness practices may leave you feeling better equipped to deal with any holiday stressors that arise this season. Presence supports our efforts to decrease depression and anxiety. Depressive thoughts tend to keep us stuck in the past. Anxious thoughts keep us worried about the future. Mindfulness keeps us grounded in the present.
How can Mindfulness help?
Mindfulness is a tool you want under your belt this holiday season. Mindfulness practices bring calmness to the body and help regulate the nervous system, which is where the brain signals an alarm (stress response) when something is “dangerous.” Once our nervous system becomes activated, our bodies experience physiological changes that put us in a state of fight, flight, or freeze. The fight, flight or freeze mode is our survival instincts that kick in to protect us from danger. Ideally, this response should occur if our life is in danger and we have to fight our way out, flee the scene, or freeze and hide from the threat. However stressful or anxiety provoking situations – holiday stress for example – can cause this same response in the nervous system, releasing high amounts of cortisol (stress hormones) and adrenaline through our bodies. The nature of our response to stress determines the intensity of the physiological symptoms that follow. Mindfulness practices can be a great self-care promoter this holiday season and regulate the nervous system.
How can I practice Mindfulness?
It’s less complicated than we think. Consider your most monotonous tasks for example – brushing your teeth, taking a shower, or washing the dishes. When our bodies are engaged in these tasks our minds are often somewhere else thinking about the next task. Through the repetition of this mind-body disconnect, we inadvertently train our brains to perceive the disconnect as the norm. The positive news is thanks to neuroplasticity, your brain has the ability to learn new normals and unlearn unwanted behaviors. If you brush your teeth at least twice a day, that is 730 chances a year for you to change your neuroplasticity to adapt to mindfulness techniques.
Exercise to practice while engaging in daily routines to enhance mindfulness:
Five senses exercise – take notice of:
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can feel
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste.
Take back your control of your mental health this holiday
Here at Awakened Path, we are motivated to free you from the mental health saboteur that results from holiday stress. The therapists at Awakened Path incorporate a holistic approach rooted in expanding your inner strengths and deepening your self-awareness. You are not alone this holiday season. Connect with our team today.