Holidays can be fun times with friends Being with loved ones, but they can also bring stress and grief. Angela Drake is a clinical neuropsychologist at UC Davis Health. She offers practical advice for coping with the emotional challenges of the season, as well as specific tips for taking care of your mental health. 1. Managing Vacation Expectations
Drake gave her the best Common advice patients have to figure out how to manage their expectations. “Often what we experience is a disconnect between where we are and where we think we should be,” Drake said. This can be especially acute during the holidays. If a person grows up in a large family, they may feel lost at a small gathering. “They unconsciously compare the two mentally,” Drake points out. She suggests focusing on the things you’re grateful for right now.
2. Let go of fantasy
She also encourages people to manage their expectations of others. “We can all imagine that everyone is having a good time, but the reality is that there is often tension in the family,” Drake says. “It probably won’t be the fantasy version of the holidays.” She says you can set your expectations by recognizing that certain family members may always be difficult. “You can’t control other people, but you can adjust your expectations and responses, which can empower you.”
3. Self Check
One way to manage reactions is to periodically check yourself. “It’s a way to monitor your emotional state and see how you’re doing. You can think of it as a stress, anxiety, or mood scale. You rank how you’re feeling from 1 to 10,” suggests Drake . “When you reach a certain level—no matter what you decide—you take a break.” She recommends doing things you enjoy and feel relaxed about. She encourages patients to listen to music, exercise, take deep breaths (see tip #5), or do whatever activity or hobby they enjoy. The idea is to develop self-awareness so people can practice self-care before they reach their emotional breakdown (or boiling) point.
4. Have a plan
In addition to regular self-monitoring, Drake recommends making a concrete plan of what you’ll do if you’re feeling stressed, sad, or anxious over the holidays. It could be calling a friend, going for a walk, turning on the music, reading, or watching your favorite TV show. The event is as personal as you are. “All of this is moving in a healthy direction,” Drake said. “It’s about being proactive and self-care, not trying to ignore or suppress emotions, which often only last so long.”
Drake uses a technique called diaphragmatic breathing techniques to relieve stress and anxiety. It is also known as deep breathing or belly breathing. “You can take deep breaths anywhere, and it doesn’t cost you anything,” Drake says. She notes that people often “go, go, go” during the holidays and will work through what they need to do. “But it wears them out,” Drake added. “Breathing deeply, keeping the oxygen in your lungs, allows for better oxygen exchange. Your blood oxygen goes up. Once that happens, you start to relax.”
You can learn to breathe deeply with free online instructions and videos.
6. Share happy memories
Besides stress, holidays can It is a time of grief as people realize loved ones who have passed away. “You don’t want to wallow in grief, but it’s no use ignoring it because you’re still going to feel it,” Drake says. One strategy she recommends is called reminiscence therapy. “The idea is to acknowledge the loss and the sadness, but not dwell on the sad memories. Just focus on the happy ones,” Drake observes. “I encourage people to celebrate that person. Talk about them, reminisce, tell stories.”
7. Connect with the community
“Loneliness has a negative impact on health. Holidays can exacerbate loneliness, especially when people no longer have family or are away from family or friends,” Drake said. For those without a friend network or support group, her advice is to get out there and find one. She noted that people find community through many avenues, including churches, clubs, meetups, volunteering, cultural centers, LGBTQ centers, and more. “It’s hard to find community these days, but it’s so important. You get to talk to people, interact, and feel good about what you’re doing. It’s good for you.”
You can get help by calling or texting 988*)
If you or someone you know is going through a mental health crisis, help is available 24 hours a day, seven hours a week For a few days, call or text 988 from your smartphone. You can learn more about the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline on their website.
Citation: Seven Tips to Manage Your Mental Health During the Holidays (December 19, 2022), retrieved January 9, 2023 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022 -12-mental-health-holidays.html
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