From mentalhealthhotline.org (article republished with permission)
Ah, the holidays. They bring joy and love, and they also bring stress, especially for those living with mental health issues. That’s one out of every five Americans by the way – more than 51.5 million of us. Among those with mental health issues, about two-thirds report worsening mental conditions during the holiday season.
Let’s factor in how awful and strange Covid-19 has made our world, and the holidays can spell mental disaster for millions and millions of Americans. It doesn’t have to be like that, though. The Mental Health Hotline wants to offer you 10 tips (and some bonus ones too) on how to maintain a healthy mind (and body) during the upcoming Covid-affected holiday season.
- Stay Safe. This might sound like a catch-all, but it’s critical to understand how important safety is during a travel season in a pandemic. Plus, if you suffer from mental health issues, becoming sick with Covid will not help your situation. Limit your gatherings to small numbers. Get tested often. Gather outdoors if weather permits, or even virtually. Wash your hands often. Wear a mask when within six feet of others. Hygiene not only helps mental health but is also crucial during these uneasy times.
- Put Yourself First. There are healthy ways to be selfish, and it’s time to do so. Become your main priority during the holiday season. If you begin to feel upset or sad or lonely, engage in some hobbies or treat yourself. It doesn’t have to be expensive or even cost anything. Take an extra-long hot shower to your favorite album. The idea is to put your own mental well-being first.
- Practice Gratitude. It may sound corny, and maybe it is, but the act of writing a list of things you’re grateful for has been proven time and time again to improve mental health. Write thank you notes to people who mean something to you. Or even just make a list of your favorite things. Being thankful will remind you of all the positive aspects of your life.
- Fill Your Schedule. Don’t overdo it but stay busy! Idle time is the devil’s playground, so fill your holiday time with healthy activities that make you happy. Make plans with friends you haven’t seen in a while. If you’re not a super social person, make a list of books or movies you haven’t read or seen and start! The idea here is to occupy your time with things you enjoy so as to not feel down during the holidays.
- Keep It Real. Yes, the holidays can bring lots of good times, but in reality, the Hollywood-phony version of the holidays that America sells is mostly fake. Don’t buy into the cheer and smiles you’ll soon find all over TV and plastered on billboards everywhere. Most of it is advertising. Keep it real and hangout with people you love, even if that person is yourself.
- Avoid Social Media (If It’s a Problem for You). Virtually every study ever done on social media has shown that it can cause a whole lot of harm. Lots of folks fictionalize their lives online, and for someone with mental health issues during the second pandemic holiday season in a row, social media can be dangerous. If you find yourself negatively affected by it, avoid it.
- No seriously, exercise. It’s the most natural (and likely most effective) means of achieving better mental (and physical) health known to humankind. You don’t have to join a gym and start benching 300 pounds. Simply take a powerwalk or jog or run every day. Stretch in the morning and follow with 50 jumping jacks. Start small and it will build itself.
- Eat Well. No seriously, eat well. It’s the most natural (and likely most effective) means… okay you’ve heard this already. But a good diet is just as critical to overall health as exercise. Combine a good diet with a life in motion, and this holiday season might just be the best two months of your 2021.
- Stay Sober. Mental health issues and substance abuse are unfortunately connected in many ways. Poor mental health can cause a desire for substance abuse, which in turn causes poor mental health. This is what’s known as a vicious cycle. Avoid (or break) that cycle by maintaining sobriety this holiday season.
- Use Your Support System. If you suffer from mental health issues and you don’t have a support system in place, go ahead and click that X on the top right and build one. A support system consists of people, places and things that are healthy and happy. The people in your support system should be reliable and have your well-being in mind. This holiday season tap into that support system. Even if you don’t end up needing it, preventative measure is always good.
- Conclusion/Bonus Tips. For those with mental health issues, this list may seem like just another pile of weak attempts at regurgitating corny cliché ways to stay happy. Here’s the thing; these attempts work. There is no one true way to be mentally sound. There are, however, literally tons of pages of research done over decades that say the suggestions in this list will improve mental health. If you truly feel like none of the above ten tips can help, then try one of these:
- Spend some time in nature.
- Volunteer at a local food bank or homeless shelter.
- Write a short novel.
- Join a local club or team.
- Acquire a therapist.
- Try and draw a self-portrait.
- Clean your entire home.
- Clean your car if you have one.
- Take free classes online.
- Focus on your job and try to shine. (Overtime?)
We wish you the best of luck in staying happy and healthy this holiday season. If you or anyone you know is in need of immediate assistance, call the Mental Health Hotline. We’re here for you 24/7 which can prove to be critical during the holidays. Take care… of you.
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