8 Tips to Improve Mental Health During the Holidays

woman in red sweater showing signs of stress during holidays

The most wonderful time of the year can also cause holiday stress for a lot of people. During the season of giving, remember to give yourself a break by following this check list with expert-approved articles for keeping your peace during the holidays. 

Move Your Body. 

You don’t need an expensive gym membership to look and feel your best. If working out more is one of your resolutions next year, walking just 20 minutes a day is a great way to ease into your exercise goals. Bundle up and grab a buddy to hold you accountable. Add hand or ankle weights if you want to level up, too. If you’re in an office building with multiple floors, start taking the stairs instead of the elevator. As a bonus, the benefits of moving your body and being outdoors are excellent for taking care of your mental health. 

Fill Up Your Cup.

Make water your drink of choice the morning after a late night present wrapping session. Similar to coffee, drinking a glass of water is a great way to wake up. The hydration water provides is rejuvenating to the body. Not only that, drinking water can actually make you feel happier. Dehydration can cause people to feel grumpy or sad but hydrating your body with water activates a flow of nutrients and hormones that release endorphins — aka warm fuzzies — that are perfect for cold, holiday temperatures.

Eat and Feel Merry. 

If you’ve been dreaming about grandma’s irresistible pies but are stressed about the prospect of overeating and holiday weight gain, work some metabolism-boosting foods into your diet beforehand. Foods such as oatmeal with berries, lean meats, low-fat cottage cheese and almonds can help you feel fuller, longer.

Laugh About It. 

If there’s one thing that belongs on your to-do list this season, it’s allowing yourself moments of laughter. A good belly laugh doesn’t only lighten the mood, it has proven health benefits, too. Along with lowering stress levels, laughter can improve heart health, lessen feelings of physical pain, reduce blood pressure, boost your immune system and more. So, let out some giggles watching a holiday romcom, make one of your holiday gifts a date to see your favorite comedian or slow down enough to enjoy a light-hearted moment with family and friends. 

Limit Screen Time. 

More time spent indoors this time of year might mean more video gaming for your tween or teen. It may feel like a brain break to them, but the effects of spending too much time in front of the screen can have side effects for kids, such as irritability, anxiety or depression. Try to coax your kids away from their computer or TV and over to the kitchen table for some family board games, or head outside for fresh air and sledding together. 

Be Mindful of Your Breathing. 

If you’ve been feeling short of breath but have been lucky enough to escape any pesky winter colds, it could be a symptom of anxiety. While the holidays bring up feelings of joy for many, they can bring up feelings of dread, too, especially for people with strained family relationships or those simply experiencing the stress of preparing for the season. Make sure you get the help you need before it leads to something more serious, like a panic attack. 

Know When You’re Overwhelmed. 

Between holiday parties, finding the perfect gifts and preparing to be around people you haven’t seen for a while, it’s understandable if your stress levels are at an all-time high right now. If you’re experiencing prolonged stress that’s causing physical symptoms, such as headaches and trouble sleeping, and you notice you’re feeling less jolly and more irritable, it’s time to be intentional about relieving your stress. First things first, look out for number one. Ask yourself what you need right now. Maybe it’s sitting out your partner’s work party or throwing on your parka and absorbing some sunshine for a much-needed dose of vitamin D. Whatever you need to do to shift the load you’re carrying, be sure to do it. 

Get Help if You’re Feeling SAD. 

Experiencing seasonal affective disorder, also known as seasonal depression or SAD, can really take you out of the holiday spirit as the days get darker, earlier. Symptoms can include a lack of motivation, repetitive thoughts of worry, trouble concentrating or a loss of interest in doing things you previously enjoyed. Outside of talking with a primary care provider about how you’re feeling, there are things you can do combat SAD, such as building positive experiences into this time of year, leaning on your support network of family and friends and making sure you’re getting enough rest

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