Mental Health Myth: The holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. For some people, the winter holidays are not so wonderful. The good news is there are ways to make the holidays more enjoyable/bearable no matter how you feel about this season.
Thrive is a nonprofit located in Hendersonville whose main focus is mental health. Thrive helps to move people from surviving to thriving. One way they do that work is through helping all clients and staff to access behavioral healthcare through various channels like the Employee Assistance Network, or EAN.
EAN offers in-person and virtual therapy sessions to help people deal with things like holiday stress, anxiety, or even problems with your spouse. You can meet with your therapist weekly if you want, or you can go less often – frequency is usually up to you, and you and your therapist will talk about your needs. Maybe you just need help learning some coping skills for stressful situations, or maybe you need to work through some long-standing anxieties; either way, your therapist can figure out a plan that works for you.
Thrive’s Executive Director, Kristen Martin, states that talking to a professional is one of the best ways to make your holidays and life more enjoyable.
Another way to make the holidays smoother is to make good choices when it comes to food and drink throughout December. Most of us are bombarded with sweet treats, rich foods, and lots of alcohol at this time of year, and it’s easy to overindulge on a daily basis. While it may seem fun in the moment, this doesn’t usually make you feel well in the long run. You may not realize it, but it’s harder to feel your best mentally when your physical health is suffering. It’s a great idea to plan out your meals for the week and consider which days you know you will be eating heavier meals. On those days, maybe you can make yourself a healthy but hearty salad for lunch to balance out the larger dinner you will be eating. Or maybe you could create a plan for which days you will stick to non-alcoholic drinks so that you don’t find yourself drinking too much.
If you search for non-alcoholic drink recipes online, you will find lots of delicious options! (https://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/g29386984/non-alcoholic-christmas-drinks/) You also might want to consider adding in a multivitamin or supplement that supports immunity to keep you well during the winter. While it is a little extra work to create a meal plan, it’s time that is well spent on keeping yourself healthy and happy.
Another key to surviving the holidays is to make sure that you include some “me-time” in your schedule. It’s always a challenge to make it to everything this time of year: holiday office parties, family gatherings, school plays/recitals, gift exchanges with friends, and so on. It might be good to look at your calendar and decide which of these events is most important to you and which ones you can skip. It’s better to be realistic about what you can fit in, rather than to try to do it all. And in between these events, you can try to schedule something you really enjoy, like a manicure, massage, a walk with your best friend, or a coffee date with your partner.
There is no right answer… it just needs to be something that makes you happy and helps you breathe a little easier as you move through your day.
Sometimes the key to happiness during the holidays is to “cheat” a little. What I mean by this is taking shortcuts that help you keep your cool. For example, if you are asked to bring dessert to an office party, but you have no time at all to make your famous chocolate cake, you can pick up a beautiful dessert at the supermarket bakery section. It’s probably not going to make a bit of difference to your co-workers if you buy the dessert or make it yourself, but it will save you hours of work that you can’t squeeze in this week.
Another “cheat” to try is paying someone else a small fee to wrap gifts for you or put up lights/decorations at your house. Not everyone can fit this into their budget, but if you can swing it, handing off these tasks might be just the break you need to keep calm.
Many of us look forward to the holidays, but please remember that for some people, this time of year is exceptionally hard. Look out for your friends, check in with them, and make sure they are well. If you are struggling through the winter, please don’t be afraid to ask for help.
For more information about Thrive’s programs for mental health, visit the website at thrive4health.org.
Tracey Gruver is the Development and Communications Director at Thrive. Contact her at 828-697-1581.