Holiday music, lights glowing, children laughing. ‘Tis the season for holiday cheer. While many anticipate the comforts of “the most wonderful time of the year,” others struggle to get through to the end of the season without succumbing to depression and mood swings. The holiday season brings to the surface many difficult emotions. A time when families travel from far and wide and traditions come to life. This can be joyous for some and marked with sadness and loneliness for others. For those who may not have tight knit families, or any family at all, the holidays may serve as a stark reminder of a life lived in isolation. This is also the time of year when the loss of loved ones is magnified. A holiday gathering with a chair, once filled by your mother, brother, or friend sits empty, bringing to the surface grief and longing in great intensity. For others, it is the sheer overwhelming nature of the many items on your “to do” list that cause stress and anxiety. Rushing from here to there, pressured by the materialism and commercialization of the holiday season, many are literally running themselves in to the ground trying to keep up and get it all done. So many of us put undue pressure on ourselves for a perfection that we will never reach. So how do we all not only get through but enjoy the holiday season in a healthy way?
■ Self-care. Self-care is not all spa days and pedicures. Self-care is taking 5 minutes out of the day to focus on yourself. It is reading that book that has been collecting dust on your shelf for 6 months. Find something, no matter how small, that makes you feel more like you and do it.
■ Engage with people. Spend time in a positive environment. That may be time with family and friends. It may be volunteering your time and efforts to help others. There is no shortage of opportunity to serve at a soup kitchen, a hospital, a church. There is no better way to truly feel better than to serve others.
■ Laugh. Find something or someone that makes you laugh. And do that often.
■ Disconnect. Make it a point that you and those around you turn off the TVs, phones, and computers. Limit your time on social media and stop comparing your life to someone else’s social media life. Allow quiet time both alone and with those that you love.
■ Reconnect. Reconnect with yourself. Check in with yourself throughout the day. “How am I feeling? Why do I feel this?” Are you having pain? Anxiety? Take 10 deep breaths, inhaling positive thoughts and exhaling your negative thoughts. Then repeat.
■ Move. Physical exercise can be great medicine for your mood. Start by taking the stairs or parking further away from the door at the mall then push yourself to incorporate regular cardiovascular activity in to your life for 30 minutes a day. You will thank me later.
■ Watch what you eat. Healthy diet, healthy body, healthy mind. Food is fuel. Eat more fruits, vegetables and proteins. Eat less sugar and packaged foods.
■ Check your Vitamin D. Many of us in this area have low Vitamin D levels, even in the summer when the sun is shining. Your levels may drop even more during our Michigan winters. This can worsen your mood. See your doctor, get your Vitamin D level checked.
■ Accept that you are not perfect. Perfection is the enemy of good. Cut yourself and others some slack. People and things will never be perfect. Accept that.
■ Refocus on what really matters. Crowds and bad drivers are no fun. Try to engage less in the commercial aspects of the holiday. Focus less on gifts and projects and more on people and memories.
■ Allow yourself to feel your emotions. Recognize when you are sad, anxious, or angry. Then take the time to take some deep breaths and center yourself. It is okay to feel how you feel.
■ Get help! If at any time you feel that your mood is worsening, that you cannot get out of bed, go to school or work, do not feel like eating, cannot sleep, cannot enjoy fun activities, or at any time are having thoughts of harming yourself, GET HELP! Talk to those close to you, tell your doctor. The Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority is always here to talk, here to help. Call our 24 hour helpline at 1-800-241-4949.
Dr. Barika Butler is the Chief Medical Officer for DWMHA May your holiday season be happier this year.