Posts Tagged holidays

Holiday PSA: Stress, Self-Care, and Mental Health

Holiday PSA: Stress, Self-Care, and Mental Health

Danyelle sharing a part of her recovery story at When the Holidays Hurt…

For most, the holidays are a time of great joy, excitement, and family fun, but for many of us, the holidays hurt. They’re hard. They’re not ‘pretty presents wrapped up in a bow’ or feel-good festivities, but sources of pain, struggle, and/or sadness. Memories of a lost loved one, negative feelings/experiences, and expectations can make it difficult to enjoy this time of the year. I shared my experiences last night at a Human Library presentation; we’re not alone in our struggle. Some of us, myself included, also experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which means that when the sun is in low supply and it’s cold and dreary, our mental health takes a nose dive. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to consume us. Whether you have a mental health condition or not, there are things you can do to de-stress and engage in acts of self-care to promote positive mental health over this season.

1.  It’s OKAY to take a break from family, especially if they challenge your mental health. You can do this respectfully by setting boundaries and limits. It’s okay to politely excuse yourself for a few moments (or longer) to collect yourself, reconnect, and reboot.


2. Back to Basics: self-care also includes eating healthy foods, exercising, and making sure you get enough sleep. Putting yourself first is not selfish; it’s necessary. It’s okay to indulge in some holiday treats-Hello! Christmas Cookies!-but we like to stick to an 80-20 rule (80% clean/healthy, 20% not so much).

REI-_OptOutside_Anthem_Film_153. Get Outside! Remember REI’s catch-phrase #optoutside? Even though sunshine is hard to come by this time of the year, getting some fresh air is good for the body, mind, and spirit. Be mindful of your surroundings: What do you smell? Hear? See? Feel? Embrace the now! Pet that dog (probably ask first). Catch a snowflake on your tongue. Take a good wiff of that bakery-it’s okay to stop in for a treat too :)

4. Do what YOU do! Make sure to engage in activities you enjoy. Read a book, watch a movie, knit, bake…whatever you like to do, make time for you! Little moments of stability can do wonders for your mood.

5. Be mindful. Savor the good times. Stay positive; surround yourself with positive people, if you can. Make time for those friends you haven’t seen in a while or spend some time with that favorite relative. Our perspective determines our reality; if we’re looking for good things, we’ll be able to find them. Practice gratitude and celebrate the small things. Imperfections are a part of the ride and they don’t define the event/who you are.

expecations6. Set realistic expectations. Society bombards us of the idea of this ‘perfect family holiday’ where everyone holds hands and sings Christmas carols around the tree, everyone laughs around a huge table of food, and everything is red and green and lit-up and glorious. Let’s face it-this isn’t real. Everyone is unique and every family is different. When we expect too much, we miss out on little things that could be great experiences. It’s easier said than done (trust me, this is a hard one!), but it’s important to remember that it will pass and to make the most of the situation as it is, not what we expect/would want it to be.


Family is messy. The holidays can be stressful, to say the least. But YOU CAN DO IT! Take care of yourself first and foremost. You are important! You deserve a HAPPY HOLIDAY.


Written by Danyelle. Project Coordinator

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Stress-LESS this Holiday Season

Stress-LESS this Holiday Season

Oh, Christmas. Twinkling lights, joyful reunions, sweet treats, merry carols…but if you’re like me, the holidays bring on waves of stress and heighten the symptoms of my mental illness. Even if you do not have a mental illness, it can be difficult remembering the loss of a loved one or handling increased pressur12-5-16 blog 3es from friends and family. 64% of people say they are affected by feelings of anxiety and depression during the holidays (NAMI). These feelings might include: fatigue, tension, frustration, loneliness/isolation, sadness, or a sense of loss. Although for some these ‘holiday blues‘ are temporary, these problems must still be taken seriously because they can lead to long-term mental health complications.

Here’s some things to keep in mind:
1. Talk about it! Just like self-advocacy is important for those with mental illness to speak up for what we need/want, it is important to engage friends and family in discussions about your struggles. It can feel awkward, but it is important to be pro-active rather than reactive, meaning it’s better to be prepared than to end up in a worse place later on. Having these conversations also lets others know that it is no one’s fault; you just have to take care of you! It’s okay to not be okay!

2. Take breaks! There’s nothing wrong with taking some quiet time for yourself. With so many different places and people everywher12-5-16 blog 1e, it can be very overwhelming. Doing this various times throughout the day can help prevent uncomfortable feelings from sneaking up on you or building up and releasing in an negative way. Go for a brisk walk, read a couple chapters of a book, listen to a few tunes, or do some deep-breathing outside. Whatever small things you need to keep yourself balanced and relaxed. Give yourself permission to breathe.

3. Set reasonable expectations! Don’t strive for perfection; there is no such thing and it’s not worth it. It’s important not to overextend yourself-physically, emotionally, or financially. It’s okay to ‘say no’ to activities and events and keep it simple. Only you know what your limits are and these keep you safe and well. Stick to your normal routines as much as possible, get enough sleep, exercise, and don’t eat too many treats. Even if it is the holidays, your body, mind, and spirit will appreciate the consideration. Mindfulness matters!

If you need someone to talk to, call the WARMline at 1-866-661-WARM. You don’t have to go through this alone.

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