Tools to Support Mental Health Over the Holidays
Tools to Support Mental Health Over the Holidays
The holidays can be a magical time of events, celebration, giving and connecting. In the same breath, all of that activity can be overwhelming and requires that we support ourselves with tools to stay grounded, centered and at ease. We’ve put together some resources to help keep your holidays feeling bright.
Gift giving can be a real source of joy, but can come with feelings of financial pressure and a stressful aftermath. What do you get the pal who has everything? How do you give something meaningful while staying within a friendly budget unique to your financial circumstances?
Our favourite way to navigate gift giving is to get unique and personal, and really, these types of gifts mean so much to others. For instance, make a card and save yourself $7, write your loved one a meaningful letter (words of love and/or appreciation are truly priceless), make them something they can enjoy like a homemade bath scrub, cookies, a bespoke greenery arrangement from your yard, granola, or a friendship bracelet. Another great gift idea is to give them an experience, such as having them over for dinner, getting all the things to make a new cocktail, host a movie night with snacks, take them out for dinner at your favourite hole in the wall restaurant. Finally, another thoughtful gift is to make a donation to a cause they are passionate about in their name. We also created a gift guide supporting local Canadian brands, many of which offer affordable and thoughtful gift ideas.
Bottom line, try not to compare yourself to the next person. Gift giving is not about how much money you spend, but the thought and meaning behind the gift. Plan out your gift giving in advance with a budget, and stick to it to ensure things don’t pile too high. With some extra care and planning, you can save yourself a lot of stress.
Getting adequate sleep
Holidays often include more late nights at work parties, friend parties, watching holiday movies, etc. Some of the best ways to ensure you maintain good sleep hygiene is to be mindful of how you spend your morning and the 2-3 hours before going to sleep. Here are some tips:
- Aim to get sun exposure first thing (even on a cloudy day) to set your circadian rhythm and release awakening chemicals like cortisol, epinephrine and endorphins. To do this, drink your morning water by the window or go for a brief walk outside.
- Before bed, aim to give yourself 2 hours between your last bite of food and sleep, as digestion requires a lot of energy and can prevent us from entering deep sleep.
- Reduce screen time before bed & add Night Shift mode to your devices after sunset to avoid artificial blue light exposure. Blue light signals high noon to our pineal gland and suppresses melatonin, which prevents deep sleep and repair overnight
- Also, consider opting for a non-alcoholic beverage when you can as alcohol can severely disrupt our sleep. Have a mocktail, kombucha, sparkling water or non-alcoholic beer and consider a couple of squares of Star Bar instead.
To feel well emotionally, physically, and energetically, we want to ensure we are fuelling our bodies with adequate nutrition, even as we enjoy and indulge in the nostalgia of the holiday season. Some ways we like to do this are:
- Staying properly hydrated (two big glasses of water to start the day before coffee as a jumping off point)
- Ensure at least one of your meals boasts lots of colourful vegetables and fibre
- Pair sweet treats with protein or healthy fats (for example, mixed raw nuts with shortbread cookies or olives with cheese and crackers) to help keep blood sugar regulated
- Start your heartier meals out with a salad or olives for added nutrition, to support blood sugar balance and to prevent overeating
Navigating New Year Resolutions
While setting New Year intentions can work well for some, these sometimes lofty goals can create a high pressure scenario and/or prevent us from making small, incremental changes that tend to be longer lasting. We like to take the New Year as an opportunity to reflect on the year and apply this information to help us plant seeds for the upcoming year. Some of these prompts might include:
- What did I accomplish this past year?
- What new skill / trait did I develop this year?
- How did I grow and evolve?
- What am I ready to let go of?
These prompts can help us take a bird eye view on our life, celebrate how far we have come, and make space for new by clearing out what is no longer serving. In other words, less about adding more things to achieve and do, and more about removing obstacles to reaching our full potential.
Navigating family + communication
The holidays can often mean spending time with family and friends we don’t always spend a lot of time with. Perhaps you’re getting together with folks who you intentionally create space from the rest of the year or don’t always see eye-to-eye with. It can be tricky to share our energy with people who may have a different take on life. Recently, we stumbled upon this three-part TikTok series which features some sound advice on maintaining healthy communication:
Here is another great resource if spending time with family during the holidays can be tricky for you: Healing During the Holidays (Self Healers Soundboard Podcast).
Loss can be highlighted even more around the holidays and family traditions. We found this resource of 10 tips on navigating grief throughout the holidays; we hope you’ll find it supportive.
In our experience, it can feel grounding to maintain traditions in honour of those we’ve lost. It may evoke a blend of both joy and sadness, and that’s okay. Often, we’ll ask ourselves, “what would (insert lost one) want us to do?” And a lot of the time, it encourages us to celebrate, do the tradition, bake the cookies, etc. as a gesture of remembering a loved one. The movie, A Family Stone, is a holiday watch that weaves grief into a story of a family coming together for Christmas.
With more commitments this time of year, it can be challenging shifting out of our usual movement routine. Studios and gyms reduce their schedules or close, we go home for the holidays, our days are filled with social commitments, etc. The best way to stay active throughout the holiday bustle is to simply walk. Walking has an incredible amount of benefits for our mental and physical health. Going out for dinner? Opt to walk home. Bundle up and take a 30-minute walk midday to stretch your legs, have some alone time or connect with a loved one out of the house. If you’ve got kids or are looking for a festive activity, go for a “lights walk” after dinner and explore the light displays in your neighbourhood. Get your steps in during a day of holiday shopping. Aiming for 10,000 steps is a great way to ensure you’re staying active. If cold temperatures and ice are a barrier to walking, most studios offer online classes post-pandemic, so you can always start a trial and support a local studio while getting short and sweet movement classes in from your living room or family’s basement.
The biggest thing is to find simple ways to keep your body moving, without creating stress around “one more thing on your to-do list”. Low impact activity is better than no activity.
Stress around receiving gifts
Some of us find receiving gifts to be a challenging experience. It can make us feel self-conscious, challenge our narratives around worthiness, and make us uncomfortable being the center of attention. There’s also the fear of, what if it’s not for me? Should I be honest or fake enthusiasm? When receiving gifts, it can be helpful to keep the gift giver in mind, and hone in on their act of kindness. If nothing else, show gratitude for the gesture and thought versus zeroing in on the gift itself. Acknowledge the gesture, the thoughtfulness, the effort they put into gifting you whatever it is you’re receiving. Focus on the fact that giving the gift if offering the giver a moment of satisfaction or joy. You can always sprinkle in humour, too. If having folks watch you open a gift makes you uncomfortable, you can make light of it and encourage others to open alongside you. Here is a great read on the power of receiving.
Maintain the daily rituals that keep you feeling safe and supported. Perhaps that’s meditation, journalling, breathwork, or microdosing. Most of these rituals can be accomplished in under 30 minutes, and can stay integrated in your day. Maybe your meditation happens first thing while still in bed and un-interrupted by family. Perhaps your regular 15 minute breathwork is a simple 3 minute box breath while traveling. While people are reading or watching movies post-dinner, you can take 10 minutes of quiet to journal. Taking small increments of time to focus on yourself will make a big impact as you move through the season.
Happy Holidays from all of us at Sero!