Updated: Dec 17, 2020
The holidays can be a joyous time for some, but depression often looms in the background for others. This year has been especially challenging considering the ongoing pandemic. People of color have been disproportionately affected; so many are grieving the loss of loved ones, employment, and social interaction. For this reason, some can’t imagine this holiday being an enjoyable one.
On top of that, many people within the LGBTQ+ community feel increased angst when navigating family dynamics around these times. The isolation and rejection faced within the community experience on a daily basis can easily be amplified during this time. Not to mention, it can serve as a reminder of the areas in your life you don’t have love and acceptance.
As we approach this time with tenderness, I invite you to ask yourself: Where can I locate Joy in my life at this time? Is there room for presence? Can I give myself permission to be nourished? Bottom line, I would like to invite you to make a conscious effort to take care of yourself.
Below, you’ll find practical ideas for Body, Mind and Spirit for maintaining your wellness during the holiday season.
Your physical body houses your spirit, so the way you treat it can have a direct impact on your mental and emotional health. Many of our ancestral practices like Kemetic Yoga and Tai-Chi center the benefits of movement for health. This has also been cited in more formalized structures like the American Psychological Association (APA) which found exercise is a significant variable that contributes to wellbeing. Simply staying active can reduce anxiety, improve your mood, and enhance your overall mental health.
On that note, here are a few ways you can care for your health during the holidays.
1. Mindful Eating
Food is something most people look forward to during the holiday season. While it’s great to indulge in holiday foods, be careful not to do so at the risk of your health. Overeating and unhealthy eating habits can affect how you feel on the inside.
Some unpleasant impacts of unmindful eating:
Stomach expands beyond standard size (pushing against other organs)
Changes in body
Increase of depressive episodes
Increase in anxiety
2. Stay Hydrated
With so many types of drinks to choose from during holidays, it can be easy to forget about the importance of drinking water. Seeing as staying hydrated is a way to boost your wellbeing, it’s something worth adding to the top of your priority list.
When you’re dehydrated, it throws off the dopamine and serotonin balances in your brain, which are responsible for making you feel good. However, drinking enough water can help you feel alert, refreshed and alive.
3. Get Enough Sleep
When you’re busy going from one task to another, sleep can seem like a myth. However, a lack of sleep can lead to burnout and fatigue. When your body isn’t well rested, your immune system can become weaker, making you more vulnerable to illness. Other negative effects of sleep deprivation are mood changes, trouble concentrating, performance deficits, and poor sleep quality. To avoid these negative effects, try and stick to your sleep routine or take naps to compensate for late nights.
4. Maintain a Routine
Another key way to maintain your wellbeing is to keep up with your routines. If you usually wake up, meditate, and exercise for 30 minutes, don’t stop just because the holidays come around. These are activities that nourish your spirit, so stopping them could cause fluctuations in your mood.
If you can’t stick to your exact routine because you’ll be moving around or in a different environment, create a temporary one. Routines make it easier to integrate healthy practices into your daily activities.
The mind can be demanding, which is why it is important to check in with your needs often. Each individual encounters different challenges during the holidays that can impact their mental state.
1. Set Boundaries
Boundaries are something many people tend to struggle with. Saying “no”, or setting limits for yourself can be hard as you’re accustomed to doing things in a certain way. For instance, you may struggle to address and set consequences for the snide remarks your parents make every year during Holiday dinner.
Likewise, it may be customary to meet at your sister’s house every year and maybe you’re not comfortable doing so this time around. Be ok with saying no to things that threaten your mental health and opt for choices that support your peace instead.
You may also need to set boundaries for yourself regarding the kind of information you consume. If you find yourself feeling drained after watching the news or scrolling through social media, take breaks. This could look like switching your phone off, deleting certain apps, or unfollowing some accounts.
2. Avoid Perfectionism
Perfectionism can extinguish enthusiasm you have during the holidays. The struggle to ensure everything goes perfectly and everyone is happy can create anxious feelings and overwhelming worry. There are long-term effects of perfectionism too; a meta-analysis of 284 studies found high levels of perfectionism are linked to obsessive compulsive disorders, anxiety, depression, and self-harm.
If you struggle in this department, try and focus on being present and enjoying the gift each moment brings. Manage your expectations, keeping in mind things don’t always go according to plan. For example, if you organize a gift unwrapping zoom and the internet connection becomes unstable, that doesn’t mean your efforts failed. Remember, you can’t control everything and overthinking what you could have done better may only make you feel worse.
Instead of worrying invite in coping skills like: take deep breaths, meditate, and practice gratitude.
3. Prioritize Self
While the essence of the holidays is often centered on connection to others and giving , don’t forget to give to yourself too. You don’t have to self-sacrifice just to make people around you happy. If you need to leave a gathering early so you can get enough sleep, do that. Similarly, you may not be able to afford gifts this year or have to defer it to a later time to get items on sale. Is it ok to make exceptions for yourself as you continue to navigate your own health and wellness?
This is where compromise or solution focused exchanges might be helpful as you explore ways to implement the “both/and” mindset with feasible.
The spirit is the essence of who you are, so nurture it at all times. How can you do this? By being mindful of your needs and surrounding yourself with people who have energy that's in sync with yours. Try these suggestions for nurturing your spirit during the holidays.
1. Stay Connected
Human connection is extremely important, no matter what your personality type is. Isolation and loneliness can take a toll on your mental health, especially if it’s something you experience on an ongoing basis. Studies find loneliness and social isolation can contribute to depression, poor sleep quality, and accelerated cognitive decline.This is why it’s critical to be proactive about finding your tribe and connecting with people when possible, even if that is 1-2 other people.
Even if you’re introverted, you’re likely to crave that connection at some point. This desire for connection can be amplified during the holidays as you observe people spending time with loved ones and creating new memories.
What if you don’t have anyone to connect with? Consider joining in on someone’s celebration or connecting with loved ones via zoom. Also, don't be afraid to look for support groups in your area and see if they’re holding any virtual holiday gatherings you can attend.
2. Honor Your Needs
Do you feel most at peace when you meditate? Perhaps lighting your favorite incense is what brings you clarity and lifts your spirit or creating a Holiday Playlist to sooth your soul. Whatever it is, do it as often as you can during the holiday season to help keep you grounded. Remember your needs matter and to show up for others, you need to first show up for yourself.
The holidays can be a joyous experience despite your circumstances. If you find healthy ways of coping with challenges, you might find you’re able to create warm memories that might be different, but just as special as ones in the past.