Year-End Mental Health Check

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

It’s the holiday season for most of the world, and with that comes excitement, anticipation and, you guessed it, stress. Why is it that during this time of year that we often times get stressed out and our anxieties are at an all time high? Do we put too much pressure on ourselves? Are we trying to make it the best holiday celebration ever? Are we financially strapped due to the pandemic and loss of employment? How are our families? Do we juggle too much to get it done all in within a month?

The answer is a big fat YES to all these questions and more. It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it certainly carries a certain sense of pressure that can make us feel depleted by the end of the year.

So, why do we put ourselves through it? Better yet, why do we feel the stress or allow it to take over our emotions? Perhaps it is all the ideology behind celebrating and partaking in the joy of the season. All those Hallmark movies and Christmas stories get us all giddy inside and have us wishing or hoping for that perfect holiday. Who doesn’t want to live in a quaint little town, build a snowman and bake the best gingerbread house ever for the town’s annual Christmas baking contest? And lest we forget the main theme of the plot, a romantic story, filled with hope and forever love.

In all seriousness, I do believe we have an image, an expectation of ourselves and our families to have the best Christmas or Hanukkah ever. We want to partake in the fun filled activities that only present themselves during this time of year. We relish the thought of many gatherings with the closest of our friends and families. We love the idea of gift giving (and receiving ;)). There is that magical feeling we want to experience over and over again until we exhaust all opportunities to celebrate the holidays.

Whew! Just writing all that makes me want to take a deep breath! And that is my point of this post. As much as we want to do enjoy all there is available to us, we really must take a pause and check in with ourselves. Are we taking on more that we can handle? Are we trying too hard to make things perfect and worrying too much about that ideal gift, meal or party? Absolutely! I know I get caught up in all the excitement and am like a kid in a candy shop! My eyes are wide and I have the biggest grin on my face because I want it all!

Yet, the reality is that we cannot have it all. We can’t all be bakers. We aren’t all phenomenal decorators, and we certainly aren’t all rich to buy the biggest gifts for our loved ones. If we don’t stop ourselves, we will drain our energy and become irritable and plain exhausted! And no one wants a Grinch at their party!

Families are another issue as well. We are physically separated from our loved ones, sometimes states away, if not countries apart. Our desire to be with each other during the holidays adds another stress factor because we may not always have the means to travel.

Ever since Covid hit, everything has taken a major shift in our way we do things and so our original plans of how to celebrate the holidays are pretty much washed out. No large gatherings. Everything is now virtual. From birthday parties, to church, most of us will be Zooming with our families and friends this year. If that didn’t add already to our regular stress, now we have to deal with ensuring everyone has their technology in place so that that Grandma can see little baby Susie for the first time.

I am not trying to make light of this, but we really need to stop and just take a moment to observe what is happening around us and make sure we aren’t falling into an abys. Since many of us have had to quarantine and stay away from loved ones, our desire to see one another is likely much higher this year. However, if we want to have future holidays with our friends and families, we must adhere to keeping safe and healthy. Thus, we remain isolated and many of us alone.

According to Mental Health America, there has been a significant increase of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts since the pandemic hit the U.S. in 2020. The increase is prevalent in our youth and in minorities. What can we do to alleviate our mental illness? How can we get through the holiday season this year after everything we have experienced so far?

There are some things we can do to help. Keep in mind, the list below is not to be a replacement for professional help. This list is for those of us feeling the stress of lauding the holiday season this year.

  1. Put yourself first. We have a tendency to serve others before helping ourselves. Just like the airline attendants instruct us to put the mask on our faces first, then putting it on our children, the same thought applies to taking care of our needs first. We cannot be any good to others if we don’t get the rest, nourishment, exercise and respite needed to be fully available for our families.
  2. Take the focus off of the celebrations and focus on the little moments. We may not be able to do the same things we did in previous years, but we need to stop thinking about what we don’t have and focus on what we DO have right now. If you are healthy, that is wonderful! If you can take a walk outside and enjoy natures beauty, you can really enjoy the simplicity of the season. Think about how our ancestors celebrated the holidays and take a chapter from that book. The simplicity of things can be very rewarding and fullfilling.
  3. Practice daily gratitude and affirmations. Again, stop thinking about the what if’s and why nots and focus on what you are grateful for today. Expressing gratitude on a daily basis is a great way to re-train our brain to think differently under the circumstances. See my previous post Re-Train Your Brain. In addition to expressing gratitude, practicing daily affirmations can be a powerful way of manifesting your future. By saying “I am happy” instead of “I want to be happy”, you are already believing that you are at that current state and it isn’t wishful thinking.
  4. Make a concerted effort to connect with your loved ones. Yes, we are busy, but we are also operating at a slower pace this year. Which means we can take the time to call our families, friends, and other people in our lives that mean something to us. We can schedule weekly zoom calls/meetups. Or we can simply pick up the phone and dial. Hearing our family on the other line is such an endorphin booster!
  5. Listen to music and dance it out! Music has been known to soothe and comfort. It can be uplifting, motivating and calming. Whether you listen to classical, blues, hip hop or anything in between, you will be in a much better mood than before you turned on the tunes. The holiday music is especially fun and energizing, so blast it through your windows for the neighbors to hear!

Whatever you do this month, make it manageable and really focus on the positives. Your mind will thank you!

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