Prioritizing your mental health should be important all-year-round. However, the days leading up to Christmas can be extra stressful. The season brings with it a number of added responsibilities and expectations tacked onto existing daily routines; many of which can be emotionally and financially draining. With this, you may have to consider putting some self-care practices at the top of your to-do list. Here are some tips on how to look after your mental health over the holidays:
Set realistic expectations
The holidays don’t look the same for everyone. During this time, it can be difficult not to compare your situation to others, or the ideals we see in movies and on television. Whether it be weighing family situations, the amount of money spent on gifts, or the number of invitations received, these comparisons can have a negative effect on our mental health.
Social media can play a significant role in this behaviour. According to Healthline, increased use of social networking sites, like Facebook and Instagram, can reinforce feelings of depression and loneliness through the fear of missing out. In other words, the sharpened feeling of anxiety or stress that comes from missing social events or not having been invited. Take note of this trigger, along with others which may include certain people or places. Next time around, avoid comparison triggers if you can. If not, consider writing out a list of these triggers and reflect on their validity: How do they impact your mood? How is this concentration adding value to your life?
Moderation can cover a range of topics over the holidays, from food and drink to time spent socializing. If you begin feeling overwhelmed, allow yourself time to take a break and recharge. Added stress and anxiety can lead to overeating or consuming alcohol past your limit. Not only is this damaging to your overall health, but it can also heighten negative feelings in the process or interact with prescription medications.
Instead, go for a walk outside, listen to some music, or pick up a good book. Allow yourself some “me” time. If commitments make this difficult, plan ahead and schedule in some downtime. Even ten minutes or so can make all the difference. Prioritizing your mental health may also mean having to say “no” to certain events or gatherings. If your calendar is full, don’t feel like you have to give up your downtime fit in last-minute plans or ones you feel pressured to attend. It’s acceptable to set limits. If it helps, have a line or two prepared for when this situation arises, such as, “I’d love to come, but I’m not feeling 100% and I would rather set up another time to get together.”
Combat negative feelings
If you find yourself with time on your hands over the holidays, try volunteering in your local community. Volunteering has been shown to reduce stress and combat symptoms of depression. It can also introduce you to new friends, create connections, and provide a sense of purpose. Older adults are able to provide great value to community groups through a lifetime of experience and knowledge. Find a group that aligns with a social cause that you believe in or includes an activity that you enjoy. Depending on your personality type, organizations have a number of jobs available to ensure you feel comfortable within your role.
At Seasons, all residences in both Ontario and Alberta participate in charitable outings and events that are deemed meaningful by residents through our Seniorosity™ program. Visiting local fire stations, surprising neighbours with fresh, homemade baked goods, and donating items to pet shelters are among the highlights. It is truly a powerful thing when people come together in the hope of making a difference.
Mental health support
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, there is always support available. You’re not alone. If you aren’t feeling like yourself, are experiencing emotional pain or are having thoughts of harming yourself: Call a helpline, speak to your doctor or reach out to a loved one. Mental health support is available 24/7, including the Christmas holidays.