By Lynnea Courtney
For many people, the holidays are not the most wonderful time of the year. The holidays bring added activities to an already busy schedule, our routines and habits are disrupted, and financial pressures all stress the state of our mental health.
A survey done by the National Alliance on Mental Illness showed that 64% of people with varying degrees of mental illness report that the holidays make their conditions worse. The good news is that practicing Mindfulness can help you maintain good mental health throughout the holiday season.
Here are three tips to help you through the holiday season and beyond:
The Pause: The Pause is referred to in our book “GROW: Tending to the Hearts and Minds of Children Through the Practice of Mindfulness” as intentionally giving ourselves a moment to assess our thoughts and feelings before reacting in any way. The Pause gives us a chance to acknowledge our feelings, assess our options for a reaction, and formulate the ability to communicate more clearly with others. When you feel overwhelmed, stop and Pause. Ask yourself how you feel as well as what an appropriate reaction might be. Then take action in some way. Without action, we continue to feel “stuck”.
Daily Gratitude Practice: Expressing gratitude has been shown to improve mental health and productivity. A regular gratitude practice can improve sleep, build resilience, increase emotional regulation, and reduce stress. Practicing gratitude regularly also gives us daily reminders of all that we have in our lives, and this simply feels good. To start, remind yourself of three to five things you are grateful for that day and why. You can recite them in your mind or write them in a journal. Sometimes knowing what we are grateful for is the easy part, but knowing why we’re grateful for those things is the hard, but important part.
Practice Self-Care and Relaxation: Be sure to fill your own cup with self-care practices you love. Whether you set aside a few minutes each day to read a book, draw, take a mindful walk, write in a journal, or even mindfully drink your morning cup of coffee, pick at least one activity to practice each day. Holiday stress can build up over time. Incorporating some deep breathing or meditation into your self-care can help reduce this stress as even things that feel like a small amount of stress can take a huge toll on our body over time.
Whichever of these practices you choose, I hope you carry them into the New Year. Not only does Mindfulness help us with our overall mental health, but it’s also shown to improve physical health over the long-term. Through Mindfulness, we learn more about ourselves, recognize we need to be our best self, and give those people dearest to us the permission to do the same. If you need professional help, reach out to the mental health professionals and agencies, like NAMI, in your local community.