I’ll admit it here: I hate November and December. Actually, what I hate about these two months is the general sense of frenzy and the plentiful opportunities of forced interactions with family, friends or acquaintances that we don’t generally spend time with. Don’t get me wrong—there are many things that I do enjoy about November and December: I love the decorations, the decadent food and drink and the photo holiday cards that come in the mail.
But with all the holiday parties, get-togethers, family time and general sense of frenzy combined with the shortened hours of sunlight and the cold weather, it can get overwhelming. Here are some ways that I have tried to do to stay mentally and emotionally healthy during the holidays. These things have worked well for me, but I’m always open to new ideas and suggestions!
- Observe the three day rule for stays with family: Whether it’s your side of the family or your partner’s side of the family, the maximum number of days you should stay with family is three. If you are traveling a far distance, though, make sure you schedule time with either friends, sightseeing or some other activity that gives you space. You might need more space than your partner—make sure to discuss before making plans about what your (or your partner’s) needs are. My side of the family likes to move and do everything as a herd. My husband, though, is an introvert and it takes a lot out of him to constantly be surrounded by family. We usually take a day or two (if it’s going to be longer than three days) to schedule some down time and I make sure to communicate that clearly with my family. And the adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder? It’s definitely true for family.
- Say no: You are in control of your calendar and your feelings. So say no, don’t feel guilty and enjoy the peace that comes from that two-letter word. This is a really difficult thing for me, but every time I say no, I feel a little bit freer. We don’t really have to be at every party, family gathering, school event, and community event or even send out holiday cards. Do the big things that matter to you during this holiday season and all the small stuff? Let it go.
- Schedule time for yourself: Put yourself on the calendar. Take an hour and go grab coffee with yourself. Watch a movie by yourself; get that manicure you’ve been meaning to get; take a walk around the frozen lake; go to the beach and watch the waves crash against the sand; go get a massage; grab a drink with your best friend; binge-watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; finish that last chapter of the book you’ve been reading. Whatever it might be, do something for you to recharge, renew and refresh. It doesn’t have to be a big thing or a time-consuming thing, but put it in your calendar and make it happen. Actually, why don’t you do that right now? Think of something to do and put it in your calendar right now. You are never too busy for you.
- Make another appointment with your therapist or make an appointment with a therapist: Sometimes, talking to a stranger (or relative stranger) is just what you need. If you are already on a schedule with a therapist, throw in one more for this month. If you don’t have a therapist, go find one. It is one of the best things that I have done for myself. Sometimes, there are things that I can talk to my therapist about that I can’t even talk about with my best friend about. Maybe you just need to process it out loud (I know I do!) or maybe an outside perspective will help you to see something in a different light. Therapy is an amazing tool and help—everyone should have one.
- Sleep: Someone once told me that sleep was for suckers and that we can sleep when we are dead. Well, I have to disagree with both of those statements. Sleep is essential to life. If I’m dead, I won’t need sleep. Our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health depends on rest. We generally need somewhere between seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Make it a priority. And if you need it, take naps. There is a great playlist on Spotify that I use called Power Nap and they have guided nap times that range from 20 minutes to 60 minutes. They also have one that has no voice guidance.
- Choose fresh, whole foods: This may sound a little silly, but when I am overloaded with all the cookies, cakes, pie and sweet treats (even my drinks!) that surround me during the holidays, I feel sluggish, cranky and out-of-sorts. The temptation is great, I know, but balance yourself out by also eating fresh, whole foods. I also know that since it gets colder here in Boston, I crave a lot of comfort foods that can be heavy. Balance that out, too. Your body will be much happier and so will you!
- Do something creative: Do you like to journal? Then write away. Maybe you enjoy painting, doing pottery, decorating, singing, baking, cooking or crafting—whatever it might be, do something that’s using the creative side of your brain. It could also be something like gardening (maybe with succulents or indoor plants if you live in a colder climate) or rearranging furniture. Just get your brain doing something outside of what it usually does.
Most of all, remind yourself that this is just a season. It isn’t going to last forever, but doing some or all of these things can help to keep you emotionally and mentally healthy during this time. I wish you the best during this holiday season!