How to give back to yourself during the holiday season.

When envisioning the holiday season, most people see colorful presents piled underneath a decorated tree, dining room tables filled with copious amounts of food and family, or relaxing beach vacations. Although commonly commercialized holiday events, this is likely not the reality for most. Instead, this season can be a hectic time filled with financial stress, complicated family situations, work burnout, and loneliness. In order to reach the happiness this season aims to portray, it begins at the basis of prioritizing ourselves and well-being.

Here are 5 ways to prioritize your mental well-being and give back to yourself this holiday season: 

Practice Self-care. The holiday’s should be a time to slow down and take a step back from the constant stressors of life. Self-care is one of the best ways to relax and maintain a healthy mind and body. This begins with getting a full night of sleep, drinking lots of water, getting exercise, and eating well. Furthermore, it is necessary to set time aside each day to do something that makes you happy. Whether it be going to your favorite coffee shop, watching your favorite movie, or having an at-home spa day, incorporating a desired activity in your daily routine can significantly improve your mood. In addition to these activities, taking a break from social media can diminish the sadness caused from comparing holiday traditions or family situations to others around you. Lastly, cleaning your space, adding some festive decorations or lighting a scented candle can help declutter your mind.  

Prioritize Productivity. After a long year of hard work, many people are prone to falling into sluggish routines due to work burnout. As it is crucial to catch up on rest and relax during this time, it is also necessary to stay on track with a routine so you do not create bad habits going into the new year. Making daily to-do lists, implementing a new hobby, or reading a good book are small ways to stay productive without overworking yourself. Time management is so important for productivity in work and in daily life. Using a calendar, taking breaks, and planning ahead can reinforce organization and regulate energy and stress levels.  

Set Boundaries. During the holidays, it is typical for people to feel obligated to attend to the wants and needs of others. The most important thing to remember is it is ok to say no. Balancing time with yourself and family is essential for your well-being and is not something to feel guilty for. Communicating with family and friends in advance about your schedule can lessen the anxiety caused from feeling bad about missing out on plans. If making it to all the family gatherings of you and your partner is too much, send a “thank-you” letter showing your appreciation, or only stop by for a short period to say hi. If gift giving is too stressful, set a price limit, online shop instead, or even replace a materialistic gift with a meaningful hand-written letter. If you find yourself doing too much work, set timers, implement screen-time, or create designated off days. Whatever the case may be, remember you are the priority and it is okay to take a step back from the things overwhelming you. 

Focus on the Positives. Sustaining a positive attitude throughout the holiday season can be a lot more difficult that it seems. As this time commonly correlates with stress, it is likely for people to become irritable, resentful, and even hopeless. Instead of fixating on the situations of the lives around you, instead take time to appreciate all the gifts in your own life. Writing down the things you are grateful for, compiling a list of your year accomplishments, or writing thank you notes to the people who have impacted your life are great ways to focus on the positives. Starting a gratitude journal is a highly recommended practice that influences the shift to a more optimistic and appreciative mindset. Contributing to a positive difference in one’s life by doing a good deed, such as volunteering, donating to a charity, or bringing a friend lunch, are simple routines that can add joy to your holiday season.  

Seek Support. During times of stress and commotion, isolation can be a common response. However, it is okay to ask for help. Reaching out to a close friend or family member to inform them of your struggles can take a lot of weight off your shoulders. When there are high-stress environments that you may feel obligated to, it is okay to let others know that you do not feel comfortable attending. Therapy is a vital asset that can provide comfortability in verbalizing your struggles and emotions to another person. Lasty, start a new tradition! Creating new memories with time with people who make you happy in a comfortable space can truly change your perspective on the holidays. 

While everyone’s holiday’s are different, we can all agree that this is a very chaotic time of year. Implementing these small changes into your routines will not only make the time go by faster, but will help you feel a lot more at ease. In prioritizing our mental health and well-being, the holiday season can become a much more wonderful time of year!