The month of December is full of holiday celebrations, school events, shopping, end-of-year deadlines, and a little extra traffic. It is a time when we can feel much joy celebrating with friends and family, but even fun events can seem like a demand on your time and bring unwanted anxiety. It’s also cold and flu season. Stress can make it harder for your body to combat unwanted illness. All the more reason to manage your stress this time of year!
“The holiday season can be both the happiest and also a stressful time of the year. Family and friends’ gatherings, gift-giving, traditions, and other social gatherings can make us feel happy and drained all at the same time. For some, we may be remembering the loss of a loved one or the failures for not accomplishing the things that we wanted to during the year. Wherever you are, our hope is that these tips can help you take care of yourself through this holiday season,” Elsa Jimenez, LCSW, GRMDC
By making simple changes, you can make the most of this time of year and enjoy all the season has to offer!
While it may seem like there are not enough hours in the day to prioritize physical activity, exercise is an excellent stress reliever. You don’t need to spend an hour at the gym to reap the benefits of exercise. A brisk walk, gentle yoga, or whatever form you prefer for 30 minutes a day will do the trick. Exercise elevates your endorphins, brain feel-good neurotransmitters, that can elevate your mood, and help with sleep and anxiety. If you don’t already have an exercise routine, you might want to consult with your practitioner to discuss what will work best for you.
Make time for yourself
It seems counterintuitive to prioritize yourself during the season of giving, but as the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Find an activity or exercise that brings you a few minutes of calm each day, to recharge your batteries. “Don't forget to make time for yourself for doing the things that bring you comfort. During this time is typical to break our routines, therefore, try to stick to a good night of sleep or watching your favorite TV show that gives you time for yourself," Elsa adds.
Dr. Ollen-Smith, MD recommends digital free time. It can be as simple as taking at least one hour a day with your phone off (after making any truly necessary child, work arrangements). “Try to go outside once a day. Stand in front of your home or take a walk. Feel the ground, drink the air and look around you. Think of the good things,” she adds.
Make a plan! Create to-do lists, meal plans, exercise plans, whatever will make your day easier to manage. Some people find that putting everything into their calendar, even to-do’s, help to ease the feeling of being overwhelmed. When it comes to social events, Elsa suggests to “plan ahead and commit to the gatherings you are able to go and feel comfortable going to. Some functions we attend due to traditions that we may not have an interest in. Attend the functions that bring you joy, and that are truly meaningful to you to take away the guilt of having to gather with people that don't make us feel good.”
Dr. Ollen-Smith recommends making four specific lists and consulting them frequently:
- What do you want to do for you (and special others) that will make you feel good and help you to celebrate/remember this season?
- Things you have to do--make this realistic--true obligations, necessities, wanted traditions.
- Things you can skip, put off or can do better alternative. This could include some obligations. Instead, try to simplify by buying food or preparing ahead. Consider lumping some activities together such as seeing people in groups or arranging activities prior to or after main holiday period, giving your time instead of presents.
- Ask yourself, “What I would like to do if I could?”
Put numbers 1 & 2 on your calendar and change them as necessary. Give a lot of thought to #3 and try to add to the calendar one or two things from list #4.
Be a Creative Giver
Gifts don’t have to be items. Sometimes the best gifts we give are of our time. “If gift-giving is not within your range talk to the people around you to rather spend time together over coffee, a physical activity, baking or dinner. Time with the people that we truly appreciate is more valuable and everlasting than a physical gift,” Elsa adds.
Listen to your body
If you feel run down and need to rest – rest. While this is a season of giving, the best gift you can give yourself is to listen to what your body needs.
Finally, set realistic expectations for yourself. “This is probably not the best time to start a new diet or to stop smoking or drinking completely. Just maintain or moderate if needed. These holidays are a short part of the year,” Dr. Ollen- Smith suggests.
Behavioral Health at Greater Roslindale Medical and Dental
At GRMDC, we believe mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Our highly qualified staff work side-by-side with your primary care provider to set up supportive services, from food and housing resources to individual therapy and/or medication management.