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5 Tips to help you manage your mental health during the holidays

by T-Kea Blackman

The holidays should be a fun and exciting time, but for some people it creates sadness, stress and anxiety. Some people are out shopping for gifts, decorating their homes and spending time with family and friends. For others, they are often reminded of loved ones who passed away and dread the idea of spending another holiday season without that special someone. The various moving parts of this season such as wrapping gifts, packing, traveling and cooking can be overwhelming.  

On the other hand, people might also experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs during the same season each year. You might have SAD if you felt depressed during the last two winters but felt much better in spring and summer. Some
people might even have SAD during the summer months. But in the winter, it gets darker
earlier and there is less sunlight, causing problems with the levels of serotonin in the brain and, as a result, some might feel depressed.  

But no matter where you are, here are five tips will help you manage your mental health during this holiday season.

  1. 1. Set Boundaries

This might sound simple, but it can be challenging to set boundaries, especially around the holiday season. But in order for you to be at your best and prevent burnout, it's important to be honest with yourself and others about what you can and can't do. This means saying no when you have too much on your plate even though you might want to help someone. This also includes asking for help when you need it and taking time for yourself to relax and rejuvenate. 

2. Stay Active

The holidays are a time when many of us pig out on all of our favorite desserts but remaining active will help us find balance. Staying active does not have to include going to the gym if that is not your thing, but making small adjustments like playing games with your children that require you to move your body, taking the steps instead of the elevator or trying a new class. Staying active releases endorphins (also known as the feel-good chemical). Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine which helps to alleviate stress and improve your sleep.

3. Essential Oils

For those who prefer a holistic approach, essential oils are for you. The benefits of essentials are beyond amazing and there are plenty of oils that are excellent mood boosters. Some of my favorite oils include lavender, bergamot and eucalyptus. Bergamot helps to stabilize overpowering emotions and provide mental clarity. Lavender relaxes you, promotes a balanced mood and helps you sleep, and eucalyptus is great for mental exhaustion, relieves muscle pain and guess what? If you tend to get a cold during this season, eucalyptus is the oil for you. These oils can be placed in a diffuser, rubbed on the affected area and you can place a few drops in your bath water.  When my anxiety or depression kicks in, I immediately take a bath with my oils and turn on my diffuser before I go to sleep. When I wake up, I feel a shift in my mood.   

4. Journaling

The wonders of journaling are no secret, whether you have a mental illness or not. Journaling is a great way for you to get your thoughts (good and bad) out on paper. If they are emotions or thoughts that make you feel bad, journaling will allow you to release those emotions. It's also an opportunity to write down things you want to accomplish and steps to accomplish them. Maybe you can write a letter to your loved one who passed away. Perhaps you can express to your love how much you miss them. Even though it might be difficult or brings sadness, it can be healing to remember and honor them.   

5. Spend time around people who lift your mood and decrease your stress

The holidays are the perfect time to be around people you love, so spending time with them will only cheer you up. Engage in activities that you enjoy with your family and friends as they will help to relieve your stress level, re-energize you and give you the opportunity to be social. This can be a night out at the movies, a sleep-over or going to a comedy show. Whatever activities make you feel good, do them. Have fun!