The festive season can be stressful and demanding, particularly as we enter the home stretch. Lutherwood’s mental health staff offer these 10 tips to help you enjoy the season.
- Get some sleep – a typical adult needs seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Teens need even more as their brains are still developing well into their twenties. It is helpful to try and stick to a regular routine of bed and waking times to help our bodies cope with all the other changes in routine over the holidays.
- Eat properly – sweet treats and large meals with delicious foods are tempting us away from regular meals. In addition, some people tend to overeat when trying to manage stress, which can lead to feelings of guilt and health problems. While it is nice to sample the tasty treats, we should make sure we leave room for regular, well balanced meals.
- Watch what you drink – Caffeine and alcohol affect our bodies and minds. Caffeine produces cortisol which our bodies use in “fight or flight” situations. Decaffeinated coffee, tea and herbal teas will help us manage stress levels and are less likely to affect our sleep. Alcohol is a depressant and drinking alcohol has been linked to many social, physical and mental health problems. We should always limit our alcohol consumption.
- Exercise – choose an activity you enjoy and can keep doing. It doesn’t have to do a big workout; even a twenty minute walk allows our bodies to absorb some sunlight and oxygen, and allow our minds a few minutes away from the grind.
- Restore a sense of calm – when we are stressed our heart rate increases and our breathing becomes shallower. Try inhaling deeply through your nose, holding for a few seconds and then releasing it slowly out through your mouth. As you repeat this process a few times, be mindful of the tension sliding out of your body. Other things that can help are listening to relaxing music, burning some scented candles or taking a relaxing hot bath or shower.
- Think positively – Attitude impacts everything we do; the way we think and our motivation to get through everything. As highlighted in our New Year, New Attitude blog, a positive attitude is particularly important when working with children and teens struggling with mental health issues triggered by the holidays.
- Be forgiving – There is a lot going on for everyone and the stress affects how we socialize. Unfortunately, holiday stress can be the cause of arguments between family and friends. We all say and do the wrong things, or say and do things that can be misunderstood. Trying to rise above the situation by forgiving and moving on can make a lasting difference for us and those around us.
- Prioritize the remaining tasks – do we need to do them all… really? If so, we should focus on the most urgent and important ones first. That way, if we run out of time or energy, we can be satisfied by what we have accomplished.
- Acknowledge sad feelings – while we think of the holidays as a time of joy and celebration, we can also feel sadness and grief as a result of losing someone close to us. It is okay to express our feelings about those who are no longer with us. And, it may be helpful to remember the good times of holidays past.
- Seek help if you or a family member needs it – if you or a loved one is persistently feeling sad or anxious, unable to sleep, irritable, or lacking the will to do routine chores, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. For help with a child or teen, contact Front Door at 519-749-2932 during office hours. If you or a teen is in crisis, contact Here 24/7 at 1-844-437-3247 or the Kids Help Line at 1-800-668-6868. If you are thinking of harming yourself or others, call 911.
The most important thing is to remember that the holidays are just that: a holiday from our regular stresses and routines. Remember to relax, laugh with family and friends and Have Fun!
"My first year, I didn't want to be here (and) did everything I could to try to get out. But eventually, I trusted these kind people with my life. I'm so glad I did because if I hadn't, I might have ended up in prison."