Mental Health and Wellbeing during the Holiday Season in 2021

It seems that the holiday season comes more quickly every year. We now have Christmas in July, and the Thanksgiving stuff goes up on the shelves before we even purchased our Halloween candy. The holidays bring stressors we do not have to deal with the rest of the year (even though the rest of the year comes with its own problems.) It is easy to get caught up in the holidays, especially that last sprint to the New Year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. So, I want to talk about your mental health and wellbeing during the holiday season in 2021.

Now, you’ve made it through Thanksgiving and all the strains on your mental health that came with it. It’s time to kick it into high gear as you go careening into the final stretch. Something that seems to go by the wayside during this time is our mental health. You get so caught up in doing things for others, that you can easily forget to take care of yourself. What follows are things to consider in protecting your mental health via the Seven Facets of Wellbeing while you still enjoy the holiday season. The Seven Facets of Wellbeing are comprised of emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, physical, social, and spiritual health.

Let’s get to it and discuss how you can use this wholistic approach to your mental health and balance that with genuinely enjoying the holidays.

Emotional Health

When you think of emotional health, what comes to mind? Perhaps the first things you consider are emotions like happy, sad, anger, love, and joy. These words do not just describe static emotions, but they are engrained in you as emotions you need to call on to balance for the sake of your mental health. During the holiday season you may, unintentionally, throw your own feelings by the wayside. It is the “season of giving” after all. And you must only think about generosity and nothing of yourself, right?

Wrong.

You must protect your own emotions as well as considering those of others.

Giving your love and generosity is a choice that needs to come from the heart. Otherwise, it is an obligatory conformity to the demands of the season. You must protect your own emotions as well as considering those of others. I know, I know. Making other people happy is what you have been born and bred to do since the beginning of time. However, you need to preserve some of that love for yourself. You need to know that it is OK to also give to yourself for the sake of your emotional wellbeing. Fall short on this and all of a sudden that season seems less bright, less genuine.

Remember: Hold space for your own emotions. Find balance in how you make other people feel and how you feel. If you’re not up for the office Christmas party because you are just feeling down, don’t go, and don’t be afraid to put up that boundary. Your health is important at all times of year.

Environmental Health

Your environment, the atmosphere you have around you, feeds your Emotional Wellbeing from the outside, in. It is common to go all out. You put up a superfluous number of decorations. You need to keep up with the neighbor’s light display. They go total Griswald family every year, and you can’t be shown up. You put up two Christmas trees, put little electronic candle lights in every window, and deck the ever-living shit out of the halls. I mean DECK THEM OUT.

There is one problem though. The lights, the bells, the pine needles, the giant blow up Santa in your front yard—none of it even brings you real joy. In getting lost in the season, you have turned your living space into the hazard area where an elf chose to vomit cheer that you don’t even want in your house.

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It is ok if you’re not about decking the halls. Maybe you just do it for your kids, or maybe you live with hyper-enthusiastic parents. A very important thing to have is a space, an environment just of you. Getting tired of the bright flashing lights? Make one room your Santa-free zone. Trade out the bulbs for candles. Ditch the frankincense and myrrh and burn yourself a lavender incense. Create your own zen space, free of the holiday extra.

Don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses, so to speak. This is your environment. and it is no one else’s business how much holiday stuff you do, or do not, put up for the sake of your health.

 Financial Health

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I was in a group therapy going over these seven facets of Mental Health. We were asked to share which of the seven was most important to us. The one that stood out to me the most was Financial Health. My reasons were and are because my finances dictate a lot of my stability. Financial security, for me, means that I can afford my therapy, psychiatry, and medications. It also fulfills the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter. During the holiday season, it is easy to get caught up in the material aspects, regardless of where you stand financially.

You rush around looking for the perfect present for everyone on your list. If you have children, you want them to have holidays that are nothing short of magical. You want to be sure that the Hannukah presents are a dream come true and the Christmas presents are nothing short of a miracle. However, how much of your finances should you jeopardize? When it gets down to financial jeopardy, the answer is none. None whatsoever.

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I have watched friends and family go into major credit card debt getting the perfect decorations and the most awe-inspiring gifts for a laundry list of close friends, family, and even acquaintances. But why? Gift giving is something that comes from the heart. Know that if your heart is full and your intentions are good, just a well wish can suffice. The holidays are stressful for many other reasons. The last thing you need is to have to deal with debt once everything is said and done, causing your life to be that much more stressful.

I have talked to people who are concerned that their children will not have the magical holiday that they have dreamed if they do not get enough presents.  Children are resilient, and so are grown-ups. The holiday is made of love, not money. Don’t lose sight of that and put unnecessary stress on your pocketbook, especially if it affects your health.

 Intellectual Health

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Intellectual health is being open to new ideas, new ways of looking at things, being challenged, and finding new ways to grow. The holiday season can stunt this growth as you get caught up in the material everything that comes with it. Most people, during the season, get tunnel vision. Decorating, baking, and giving are not a challenge anymore, they become a chore. It is important to continue to feed your curiosity even when everything around you is uniform.

keeping your mind active instead of on autopilot can keep your mind healthy

I know during Christmas time, I used to read The Night Before Christmas ad nauseum. I felt like it was the only thing to know. I memorized it, I lived it. Eventually I wasn’t about it, and it just became this thing I recited around Christmas. You, too, can get caught up with the Hallmark movies, the Christmas books, and even the traditional religious forms of the holidays like the Mass and Temple.

It is important to continue to challenge your brain. Take a break. Do a puzzle, read a book that has nothing to do with Christmas, watch an action movie. And no, I do not mean Die Hard. Keeping your mind active instead of on auto pilot can keep your mind healthy.

Physical Health

Physical health seems self-explanatory. This is where the mind and body connect. When I say physical health, however, I do not mean making time to work out like a maniac.

Your physical health pertains to the strength and wellbeing of your body. The running around during the holiday rush can be taxing. Physical health can mean just slowing down and allowing your body the time and space it needs to heal in order to avoid becoming battle-weary.

It can, in a more direct sense, mean stopping to smell the roses. You get caught up in the holiday hustle and bustle that you forget about your body. You grab your food here and there or go the whole day on a single Christmas cookie. Remember to take time to mindfully eat, to get out in the sun, or take a walk if you are able.

Take care of your body, and that will support your mind

I am not always able to do intense physical activity because of my particular illness and because the holidays are a stressful time for me. Sometimes all it takes is stopping, taking a breath, and having a good stretch. You will run yourself ragged if you do not remember that you are a walking, talking, living, breathing human being, not just an agent of holiday cheer. So, take care of your body, and that will support your mind.

Social Health

Social health seems like a piece of cake during the holidays. There are family gatherings, friend gatherings, work gatherings…ALL OF THE GATHERINGS.

Protecting your social health can be about not going to the gatherings as much as participating in them. The constant social interaction can be incredibly taxing on mind and body. If you are an introvert or have an anxiety disorder, it can be even more so.

Being able to say “no” to the invitations is sometimes better than participating. It can be a real energy zap, and you may find that you force yourself to participate simply because it is what you are supposed to do.

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Office Christmas parties and family gatherings can also break you down because you are around all kinds of people you would rather not share your time with on any other day. It is important to remember your closest connections and make time for them.

During this time, I am leaning on my chosen family to fill my social health cup. I recommend making time for your “number ones” during the holidays. It can balance out the stress of often feeling obligated to spend time with the people that drain you.

Spiritual Health

Even if you are not a religious person, it will serve you well to feed your spiritual health. Spiritual health can be living purposefully, connecting with others, giving back to society—all form a place of genuineness. Though the holiday season is supposed to be about giving and loving, commercialism has made it fairly ingenuine.

If you celebrate the holidays, it is important to recognize why you celebrate them.

If you celebrate the holidays, it is important to recognize why you celebrate them. If you are a religious type, it may be time to connect with the true meaning of the holiday you celebrate sans the gifts and ambiance. If you celebrate for a spiritual reason otherwise, or just for the joy of the holiday, it is important to remember the true meaning of the holidays, even if the reason is solely individual.

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You can get so caught up in doing things, running around, making the holiday perfect, that we forget why. In forgetting why we care, why we decorate, why we gift, we forget a deep part of ourselves where joy and light come from. This is detrimental to your mental health, so remember to hold your values close and do not forget them.

Thoughts

The holiday season can be exhausting to your mental health as much as the cheer feeds it. It is important to keep an eye on all the facets of your wellbeing to have a safe and stable holiday season. This season is not just about gifts, money, and creating magic. It is about love for others, and yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup. I recommend everyone participating in the holidays to take a step back, think on the facets of your wellbeing, and take an inventory of where you may be lacking.

I hope you have a safe, happy, and mindful holiday season!

Pax

Glory.

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