Editor's Note: According to an Anxiety and Depression Association of America poll, more than half of the respondents said the holiday season increased their anxiety and/or made them feel depressed. In this guest post, the author offers advice to thwart off holiday stress and remain mentally healthy through the season.
Marriage/Family Therapist and Author, Tending Fences
The holidays are upon us and for many it can be joyous and exciting. For others, however, this can be an emotional time when the winter blues set in and dampen the joy in their hearts. The winter brings cold weather and shorter daylight hours which can cause many of us to slow down and pull in.
If you feel like the holiday blues are settling in, here are 12 easy ways to lighten your heart and lift your spirits
Get into the light whenever possible
Light is essential to your mood. Every sliver of daylight you can take in will do you so much good. Even the holiday lights and decorations can make you feel better.
Be sure to Play!
Take time on a regular basis to goof around like kids do. Most often the blues take hold when you take things too seriously. No matter what age you are, find something fun to do with your friends or your kids.
Take time to exercise
Exercise, not for any reason except that it changes the chemistry of your brain and lifts your mood. For 10 or more minutes a day dance around your home to your favorite music, take a walk around the block, go to the gym. Your mood will be noticeably lifted and your body will feel so much better.
Go gently into the holidays
Honor your physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Say YES to things you really want to do, and NO to anything that drains your energy. Take extra special care of yourself by choosing how and when you want to celebrate the holidays. Make it work best for you.
Pets like dogs or cats can have a calming effect and a therapeutic love value in your life. Animal shelters are always looking for caring people to adopt dogs and cats, so if you have room for a pet in your home and life, consider visiting a local shelter. There is nothing more gratifying than a sweet and funny dog or cat greeting you at the door.
Build good relationship fences
Build fences that both connect you to the people in your life with whom you feel safe to be yourself, and protect you from people who drain your energy or cause pain. For those with whom you feel safe, build a simple fence in your mind’s eye…a place where you can meet and chat. With people who drain you, build your fences taller and stronger to let things slide off so as not to get to you.
Do one intentional act of kindness daily
It's as simple as holding the door open for someone, or as big as finding someone in need and doing something specific to help. Acts of kindness truly change everything for you and the other person.
Wink and smile and say, “I love you, kid!” out loud to yourself whenever you pass a mirror. It might feel funny at first, but after you have done this several times, you will feel more confident, more loved and lovable, happier and filled up.
Dress the way you feel
Wear your favorite clothes, the ones that feel good against your skin and in which you feel comfortable and attractive.
Eat your favorite healthy foods
Choose fresh fruits and vegetables as much as possible for the healing and life force energy they give your body and mind. Splurge a bit on holiday goodies, but be mindful to watch your sugar intake, less is more. Sugar can have a profound effect upon your mood and your whole body. As with sugar, so it goes for alcohol -- less or none are good options.
Change the pattern
Just changing a routine can help to open up new avenues for feeling better. For instance, drive a different way home from work, listen to a different radio station, get up earlier in the morning and go to bed earlier at night, try a new food, or reach out to someone in need. Small changes in routine can give you new perspectives and breathe new solutions and ideas into your mind.
Remember to breathe
Go easy on yourself. If the holiday blues really lower the light in your life, make a promise to yourself and those you love to get through the holidays without putting too much pressure on yourself. If you still find it gets to be too much, reach out and talk to a friend, a family member, or a therapist.
Terry Barnett-Martin, M.S., LMFT is a relationship counselor in private practice in Southern California. She is an openhearted, intuitive practitioner and writer who is dedicated to helping people find the purpose and path in their life and relationships. Her book Tending Fences: Building Safe and Healthy Relationship Boundaries; The Parables of Avery Soul can be purchased from www.amazon.com and through major booksellers. For more information visit the Tending Fences website.