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Nurturing Your Mental Well-being: A Guide to Holiday Mental Health by Dr Koshy Thoppil, M.D.

Nurturing Your Mental Well-being: A Guide to Holiday Mental Health by Dr Koshy Thoppil, M.D.

For most individuals the holiday season, often means festive celebrations and time spent with loved ones, bringing joy and warmth. However, for many others, it can also be a source of stress and anxiety. Balancing social, obligations, financial pressures, and expectations can take a toll on mental health. This article explores some strategies to navigate this holiday season.  

Managing Expectations and embracing imperfection:

Recognise that the holiday season need not be perfect.  It is “okay” if the season does not unfold as anticipated.  Be aware of your expectations as they relate to your own behaviour and that of others.  Unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment, stress and feeling of inadequacy.  Creating realistic goals and being flexible in your approach can help alleviate unnecessary pressure.  Embracing imperfection and accepting that not everything will go according to plan during the holidays can relieve the pressure to meet unrealistic standards. Laughter, flexibility, and a positive mindset can contribute to a more enjoyable and mentally healthy holiday experience.

Maintaining Boundaries:

Since holidays often last a short amount of time, social calendars often fill up quickly with events and gatherings. While these can be enjoyable, it is crucial to prioritize self-care and set boundaries. Overcommitting often can lead to exhaustion and heightened stress levels. Setting aside some downtime for oneself and learning to say “no” can help promote mental well-being.

Financial Awareness:

Setting a budget for gift-giving, decorations and other festive expenses can help manage financial stress. Thoughtful and meaningful gifts need not be extravagant, similarly a creative, budget-friendly alternative can certainly add a more personal touch. There are a variety of budgeting tools available, these includes apps that track expenses, to a simple excel spread sheet. Good financial stewardship can alleviate the burden of overspending!

Prioritizing Self-Care:

It is extremely easy to neglect self-care amid the hustle and bustle of holiday expectations. However, it cannot be stressed enough the importance of adequate sleep, maintain a healthy diet and incorporating regular physical activity in maintain overall well-being. Take some time for activities that bring joy and relaxation.   Reading, meditation, or even a humble warm bath, can serve as effective stress relievers. 

Cultivating Mindfulness:

Mindfulness involves being present in the moment, acknowledging your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Incorporating mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or mindful walking, can help both manage stress and cultivate a sense of calm amidst the holiday chaos.

Seeking Support

The holiday season can be emotionally challenging for individuals dealing with loss, isolation, or other difficult circumstances. It is crucial to recognize when additional support is needed and to reach out to friends, family, or mental health professionals. Seeking support is a sign of strength, and talking about your feelings can provide comfort and perspective.  

Finally, remember, the true spirit of the holidays lies in connection, gratitude, and the celebration of life’s simple pleasures.  Remind yourself of the small joys that boost your mood such as watching the sunset or gazing at the stars.  The good news is that in most cases, holiday blues are temporary.  Do check in with your healthcare provider if holiday blues, or post-holiday blues, begin to impact you. 

Alex’s Place, a youth friendly centre is located at the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority Hospital, provides cares and support for adolescents experiencing mental health challenges.