7 tips for managing your mental health during the holidays

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Navigate the emotional challenges of the season

Sacramento, California — The holidays can be a time of joy and connection with friends and loved ones, but they can also bring stress and sadness.

Angela Drake He is a clinical neuropsychologist at University of California, Davis Health. She has practical advice for overcoming the emotional challenges of the season and specific tips for looking after your mental health.

1: Manage holiday expectations

The most common piece of advice Drake gives her patients is to learn how to manage their expectations. “We often witness a disconnect between our actual situation and what we think it should be,” Drake said. During the holidays, this can be especially acute. If someone grew up with a large family, they may feel a sense of loss with a small gathering. “They’re comparing the two without even knowing it,” Drake said. She suggests focusing on what you’re grateful for in the present moment.

2: Get rid of fantasy

It also encourages people to manage their expectations of others. “We can all imagine that everyone is going to have a great time, but the truth is that there are often tensions in families,” Drake said. “It probably won’t be a fancy version of the holidays.” You can set your expectations, she says, by getting to know some family members who can always be difficult. “You can’t control other people, but you can adjust your own expectations and reactions, which can be helpful.”

3: Check in with yourself

One way to manage your reactions is to check in with yourself regularly. “It’s a way to monitor your emotional state and see how you are doing. You can think of it as a measure of stress or anxiety or mood. You rank how you feel from one to ten,” Drake said. “And when you’re at a certain level — whatever you decide — You take a break.” Do something you enjoy and find relaxing, she suggests. She encourages patients to listen to music, exercise, breathe deeply (see tip #5), or do any activity or hobby they enjoy. The idea is to develop self-awareness so that people can From engaging in self-care before reaching an emotional breaking point (or boiling point).

4: Make a plan

In addition to regular self-monitoring, Drake suggests having a specific plan for what you’ll do if you feel stressed, sad, or anxious during the holidays. It might be calling a friend, taking a walk, playing music, reading, or watching your favorite TV show. The activity is as individual as you are. “It all goes toward wellness,” Drake said. “It’s about being proactive and engaging in self-care, rather than trying to ignore or hold back feelings, which usually only work for so long.”

5: Breathe

Drake uses a technique called diaphragmatic breathing to relieve stress and anxiety. It is also known as deep breathing or belly breathing. “You can breathe deeply anywhere, and it doesn’t cost anything,” Drake said. She points out that people often “come and go” during the holidays and will try to attain power through whatever they need to do. “But then it leaves them exhausted,” said Drake. “Deep breathing, trapping the oxygen in your lungs, allows for better oxygen exchange. The oxygen in your blood goes up. Once that happens, you start to relax.” You can learn deep breathing for free Online help And the videos.

6: Share happy memories

In addition to stress, the holidays can also be a time of grief because people are aware of loved ones who have passed away. “You don’t want to wallow in grief, but it’s not helpful to ignore it because you’ll still feel it,” Drake said. The strategy you recommend is known as memory therapy. “The idea is to acknowledge the loss and the grief but not dwell on the sad memories. Just focus on the happy memories,” Drake said. “I encourage people to celebrate this person. Talk about them, reminisce, tell stories.”

7: Connect with the community

“Loneliness has negative health effects. The holidays can magnify loneliness, especially when people don’t have a family or live far from their family or friends,” Drake said. For people who don’t have a network of friends or a support group, her advice is to go out and find one. She points out that people find community through many ways, including churches, clubs, meetups, volunteering, cultural centers, LGBTQ centers, and many more. “Finding community is hard these days, but it’s so important. You talk to people, you interact, and you feel good about what you’re doing,” Drake said.
Help is available by calling or texting 988

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, help can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling or texting 988 from a smartphone. You can learn more online at 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

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