How to manage your mental health and holiday expectations

by | Dec 19, 2022 | Culture, Education

As we enter the first holiday season without rigid COVID restrictions, this is opening up many more holiday opportunities for several people. We may also feel as if we have to do a lot more to “make up” for lost opportunities over the last few years. Obligations, finances, boundary pushing, and stress can all be variables in the holiday season. Here are some helpful ways in which we can seek balance during these chaotic times.

Boundary setting: We regularly are requested during the holidays to participate in a range of activities. Dinners, gift exchanges, charity events, all these can make us feel as if we are stretching ourselves thin. Just because there is an opportunity, does not mean we have to jump on it right away. Remember, boundary setting works by first being in touch with ourselves and our own needs. Saying “no” to others is saying “yes” to ourselves.

Schedule in time for yourself: As our holiday schedules fill up, we find less time in the days and weeks for “me time”. If we are proactive around scheduling self-care time, this can anchor our schedule and make this time a non-negotiable. A great way to schedule in time for yourself is to have walks in the sunshine and utilize as much light as we can. As winter is often chronically hard for those that suffer from the lack of light, mindfully scheduling in outdoor time is helpful in regulating mood and energy levels.

Have a financial game plan: Prior to entering the holiday it is helpful to sit down and reflect on your finances. An honest reflection can help us evaluate the role money plays into the holidays and gift giving. Many report that they are stretched very thin over the holidays and have spent more than they are comfortable with. By making a plan, this can help analyse the best way to make your dollar stretch. Get creative with your gift giving if money is tight; an example of this is to arrange a holiday cookie exchange as opposed to traditional store bought gifts.

Managing expectations and relationship dynamics: Navigating relationships during this time of year can be trying, especially if there is a history of intense emotions from the past. Prior to attending some functions, we may want to review what our own personal boundaries and expectations are. This can include what time we are committing to this event, who we talk to at this event, what we talk about, as well as managing our consumption of alcohol. This can help manage emotions, expectations, and thoughts that we may not have the space to express in a healthy manner.

Reach out: Finally, if you feel as if you need a bit of a helpful hand over the holidays, this is the ideal time to reach out. Many people have a hard time with feelings of guilt, shame, sadness, and loneliness during these months. Connecting with a therapist or trusted support can help feel uplifted during these dark times.

All these tips can help create a strong foundation for getting through the holidays in a grounded and mindful way. The holidays are a set amount of time, meaning these obligations and stressors are not fixed. Take each day event by event and remember to check in on your own needs, wants, and emotions, they are valid and they matter.

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