Tis the season to be stressed. As if life wasn’t crazy enough, the holidays seem to creep up on us year after year. And if you are the least bit Type A, you know there is quite a bit of added pressure that goes in to the holiday season. Decorate your home, create picture perfect holiday cards, make sure your house is spotless before your family comes, cook a delicious meal, find the best gifts, wrap said gifts and of course find and decorate the perfect tree. The to do list goes on and on. On top of all this, we spend a great deal more time with our friends and family at holiday parties and get togethers than we do throughout the rest of the year. So how does one check everything off their list and prioritize their mental health during such a chaotic time? The key is boundaries. Which may sound simple, but really isn’t.
Be more self-aware. What is self-awarness you ask? A simple Google search tells us that self-awareness is “the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires”. A great way to become more self-aware of your feelings is by listening to your body. Do a quick body scan from head to toe and try to listen to what your body is telling you. Is there any tension? How is your stomach feeling? What is your heart rate like? Your breath? Our body typically tries to send us messages about our emotions– whether we are anxious, excited, angry, or depressed. Now that you are more in tune with how you are feeling, you are also more equipped to identify strategies for managing your mood. For example, maybe if you realize you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it is time to take a break from all the holiday shopping you are on a mission to finish. I promise there will be another sale tomorrow.
Set healthy boundaries. Setting boundaries especially with friends and family can cause a great deal of guilt. We often would rather wear ourselves too thin than to tell our neighbor Sally we can not make her annual White Elephant Party this year. We feel guilty for letting people down at the expense of our own physical and mental wellness. A few tips for setting boundaries this holiday season include knowing your boundaries, planning ahead, and being respectful but assertive. Take a minute to think about what you value. Do you value quiet nights at home with your SO? Make sure to keep a few nights open in the month to get that quality alone time in. Maybe you value a lot of family time with your kids. Then it is important to set boundaries at work to make sure you have adequate time to do all the fun, holiday traditions with them this season. Knowing your values and boundaries will hopefully make saying “no” to that neighbor’s holiday party invite a lot easier.
Incorporate Self-Care. This will not be possible without the aforementioned boundary setting. Take a look at your calendar right now. Where can you fit in even 5 minutes for yourself? Self-care does not have to be time consuming or expensive. It can be as simple as doing a 5 minute meditation in your car before work or taking a bubble bath instead of a shower, painting your nails, savoring your morning coffee, or reading your favorite book 30 minutes before bed. Whatever you do, add it to your calendar. Set aside specific you time and do not cancel on yourself. Hey, if the Grinch can set aside dinner with himself at 6:30 and refuse to cancel– so can you!
It is important to remember, all of these strategies like anything in life, take time and practice. Maybe this season has already gotten off to a stressful start, but it is not too late to try something new this year. Don’t wait until the new year to prioritize your mental health!
- Amanda Schofield is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Yoga Teacher in Oviedo, Florida specializing in a variety of mental health concerns including anxiety and stress in children, adolescents and adults.