Research shows that stress runs rampant during the holidays. This often stems from time constraints, family matters and the pressures of tradition. When symptoms of chronic stress persist and interfere with everyday life, dangerous thoughts and behaviors can follow. Fortunately, there are controllable habits and behaviors that can ease the mental strain this time of year may bring.
Express Gratitude: When dealing with negative thoughts or feelings, practice behaviors that promote positive thinking. Focus on people and experiences that bring joy or take time to write down thoughts of gratitude. By training the brain to actively replace negative thoughts with positive ones, a person’s mindset can change over time.
Focus on physical health: Thirty minutes of physical activity a day can improve overall health and boost mood. Taking a walk, stretching or making time for an exercise class can ease the mind and combat negative thoughts and feelings. A balanced, nutrient-dense diet also plays an important role in sustaining good mental health. Studies have found a link between unhealthy diets high in refined sugar and worsened symptoms of mood disorders, including depression.
Get organized: A cluttered environment can lead to a cluttered mind. One of the best ways to avoid stress during the holidays is to organize spaces and plan ahead for events or activities. Spread tasks out over a series of days, making time to donate clothes, gather garage sale items, organize closet and drawer spaces and store out-of-season items. Staying organized can increase productivity, save time and improve physical and mental health.
Monitor symptoms: It’s important to note changes in behavior and attitude during the holiday season and identify when stress is beyond one’s control. If someone is chronically fatigued, isolating or has drastic mood swings, a more serious issue may exist. Whether it’s financial difficulties or the loss of a loved one causing feelings or sadness, embrace the opportunity to open up or seek professional help.
Set boundaries: Avoid situations, environments, or people who create feelings of sadness or anxiety. Instead, focus on experiences that are positive and comforting. Don’t feel obligated to abide by “normal” holiday arrangements, especially if they generate stress. Individuals who prioritize their mental health during the holidays and beyond are less likely to experience burnout and fatigue.
Talk about it: Depression, anxiety and mood disorders are ranked number one among the top five national health conditions across every county of every state in the U.S. Talking through problems or negative thoughts opens the door to positive change. Acknowledging an unhealthy mental state allows for the possibility of exploring solutions.
Volunteer: Combat feelings of loss or loneliness by giving back to others. Studies show volunteering has positive effects on both mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and even provide a renewed sense of purpose.
About the author: Dr. Kristyn Gregory, DO, is a physician consultant and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan provider. If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
- Stress Less Over Holiday Spending
- Health Conversations at the Holidays
- Just Breathe: Go from Stressed to Serene
Photo credit: SolStock