This is a write-up of a recent article on the Relevant website, entitled “5 Keys to Boost Your Mental Health During the 2020 Holidays”. This article is part of their wellness series, produced in partnership with United Health Share Ministries.
Joyful Time of the Year Causes Stresses
In a normal year, the holiday season is viewed by many as a joyful time to celebrate with family and friends, attend or host parties and spend hours at the mall shopping for the perfect gifts. For others, however, this time of year may be a stressful trigger that can elevate mental health problems, increase feelings of loneliness and isolation, or intensify grief for lost loved ones. And in this unprecedented year, there is the added burden of being in the middle of a pandemic that affects all of us in one way or another. Holidays aside, stress, anxiety and depression have skyrocketed as people try to navigate their way with so much uncertainty.
Connect with Others In Spite of Social Distancing
While social distancing has been a real challenge, it’s interesting to see how so many people have found ways to adapt for the short-term. The phrase “necessity is the mother of invention“ really rings true as we find more creative ways to connect with one another. To help you make the best of the holidays this year, here are five tips for managing your stress and bolstering your mental health.
One: Reach Out and Connect with Others
Even though you can’t spend time with family and friends in the same way you normally would, that does not mean you can’t be social! Whether it’s through Zoom, FaceTime or any other app, you should make an effort to schedule connections. Also, reach out to people you know are alone. They may be struggling silently and your gesture of kindness will be very meaningful to them.
Two: Steer Clear of Sugar and Alcohol
Food is either medicine, or it is poison. Sugar-laden treats tend to be prevalent during the holidays, but sugar is one of the most harmful foods for your mental and physical health. It increases inflammation and decreases brain activity, which can make it harder to resist those sweet temptations. As an alternative, choose healthy, low-sugar treats made with fresh fruit and nuts instead. Alcohol affects judgment, decision-making and impulse control. This can lead to overindulgence or to seeking out conflict with others at the Christmas dinner table—which is no fun for anyone! In addition, alcohol worsens depression.
Three. Stay Active and Sleep Well
It’s really important to maintain your fitness regimen as much as possible during the holidays. Exercise is one of the easiest and most effective ways to manage stress and your overall mental and physical health. In this unique year, we’ve all had to adapt by finding new ways to exercise due to the requirements of social distancing. When you can, take your workout outside. Walking and hiking with family and friends are wonderful ways to de-stress and connect with others.
Regular exercise helps reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. It can also help you sleep better. Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly is optimal, so be sure to avoid caffeine in the afternoon and turn off your devices at least 1 to 2 hours prior to bedtime. The blue light they emit stimulates brain activity, which is definitely not what you want when you’re trying to fall asleep!
Four. Engage in Prayer or Meditation
One of the most powerful ways to support your mental health is by staying grounded with prayer or meditation. A regular practice of quieting your mind and connecting with your spirituality helps you better manage life’s stressors. It can also provide you with greater clarity about what’s important in your life. Especially this year with its multitude of challenges, staying connected to your faith helps to give greater meaning to even the small things in life.
Five. Practice Gratitude
Make an effort to identify at least 3 things each day for which you are grateful. During times of hardship, it can be easy to slip into focusing on what you don’t have. But doing so can really impact your mental health in a bad way. Choosing to count your blessings instead leads to increased feelings of hopefulness and optimism—and a greater sense of well-being.
We can get through this together!
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