Holidaze Survival Guide: Mindset Matters

Dear Friends,

There’s a lot of emphasis on family during the holidays. This is wonderful if you have lots of family and everyone gets along well. If your family is wrought by dysfunction, or you’ve experienced illness, injury, or loss of any kind, the holidays can create stress, lead to depression, and exacerbate mental health issues.

Create Balance and Find Joy This Holiday Season

If this is a difficult time of year for you and you’re dreading the holidays, there are ways you can minimize stress, sidestep anxiety and depression, create balance, and find joy.

Be honest about your feelings. While it might seem appropriate to minimize or hide your pain during the holidays, there is nothing noble about suffering in silence. At the same time, you don’t have to broadcast your distress to any and everyone who will listen. Being honest with a few select people who care about and respect you can pave the way for you to work through your feelings and garner the support you want and need to manage stress and prevent depression.

Moderate your expectations. Don’t get hung up on what the holidays are supposed to be like. Take each day as it comes. Rather than compare your situation to that of others or worry about things you can’t control, assess and accept where you are and operate within that framework. If you don’t feel like doing something, it’s okay. Honor where you are in this moment in time. 

Don’t over-commit. You can’t be all things to all people. You also cannot effectively connect with others while in an agitated or depressed state. It’s important to schedule quality time with only yourself to avoid the overwhelming triggers that send you on a downward spiral. Step away from business obligations and be selective about participating in holiday events and celebrations. Setting aside time for yourself allows you to feel more balanced, refreshed, and ready to face the New Year.

Forget about the perfect gift. If you’re already feeling overwhelmed, fretting about gift-giving will only make you feel worse. If you decide to relieve yourself of the pressures of gift exchange, make it known early. You might say, “I’ve been thinking about how stressful the holidays can be for many, so this year I’m shifting my focus from gift-giving to spending quality time with family”. Recent surveys reveal that more Americans want to forego holiday gifts, so your family and friends may gladly oblige. If they are insistent on exchanging gifts, don’t allow that to sway your decision. Stick to your guns, graciously accept their gift, thank them, and keep things moving without feeling guilty or defective. 

Nourish your mind, body, and spirit. A significant contributor to stress and depression is a lack of self-care. Self-care is a conscious act to promote well-being for your mind, body, and spirit. When you’re feeling down, it’s much easier to sleep too much or not enough, gorge on comfort foods, and be idle instead of nurturing a healthy relationship with self. Take steps to maintain your psychological, emotional, and physical health by paying attention to and making a deliberate choice to engage in some form of self-care daily. 

Experiment with essential oils. Essential oils are concentrated extractions from plants and often used in aromatherapy as a form of alternative medicine to support healing and well-being. Essential oils have been around for centuries. Below are some popular oils and their healing properties: 

Chamomile: calms tension and relieves pain

Lavender: relieves stress; reduces the appearance of blemishes; induces sleep

Lemon: energizes and purifies; supports the immune system

Tea tree: targets acne and skin funguses

Peppermint: boosts mood; relieves fatigue; eases headaches and nausea

Eucalyptus: relieves congestion and soothes stuffy nose to promote easier breathing

Bergamot: eases pain and aids digestion

Lemongrass: purifies the air of bad odors

Cedarwood: natural deodorizer; cleanses skin

Essential oils should be purchased from a reputable brand and sold in dark glass bottles that label the oil’s source. Because essential oils are so strong, only small doses are required. Be sure you do due diligence to learn how to safely use these oils and maximize their benefits.

Do something that brings you joy. Find ways to bring more joy into your life. It doesn’t have to consume much time or energy. It can be something as simple as, smiling; writing a thank-you note to yourself…just because; setting out fresh flowers to liven up your space; wearing a piece of jewelry that you haven’t worn in a while; reading something inspirational; indulging in a guilt-free treat; breathing exercises; stretching; or doing nothing at all. The possibilities are endless!! Each day commit to doing at least one thing that will punctuate your life in a loving and caring way. 

Shake things up. Identify what you want and need to feel your best during the holidays. It might be connecting with people; getting away; creating a new tradition(s); or cancelling the holidays altogether. Do whatever is necessary to manage your mental, emotional, and physical health because your well-being is of utmost importance. Be intentional about how you want to spend the holidays… and go after it!!

Until Next Time,

Dr. Mary


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