So today is the start of a magical time – Christmas and Chanukkah, aka Christmukkah. (Thanks Seth Cohen!) I know the holidays get a lot of flack in conversations around mental health and mental illness, but I personally feel great at this time of year. Sure, there is a lot to be said about seasonal depressive disorder, holiday anxiety and the stress that can occur in toxic family situations. However, if you are priveleged to spend the holidays with people that you love, chosen family or biological, the holidays can be a good time to recharge, relax, eat well and then prepare to start the New Year with a clean slate.
In honor of the eight days and eight nights of Chanukkah, this Jew wants to share eight self-care tips that you can try over the holidays, no matter your religious beliefs.
1. Get more sleep
I’m super lucky and get nine days off. But even if you just have a weekend, take the time to catch up on your sleep. Our lives are often crazy hectic and we often prioritize sleep less when we have so much on the go. But keep in mind, that while a couple of days of sleeping in can feel good, it’s important to practice good sleep habits on a regular basis. Sleep affects our ability to concentrate, our eating habits, our energy levels, and much more. If you want to be happier, healthier and more productive on a daily basis, getting at least 7 hours is crucial.
2. Be social
As we get older, it gets harder to see your friends on a regular basis. With work, maybe a partner, maybe kids, maybe exercise, pets and other responsibilities, it can be tough to schedule in friend time. Sometimes I personally go months without seeing certain friends. The holidays are a good time to catch up because often you all have at least a few more days off to work with. Seeing friends is so important for my mental health. I feel happy when I spend time with people who make me laugh, who care about me, who are interested in my life and who want to know about my daily activities and events. People who I can share my feelings and thoughts and hopes and dreams and fears with. It makes me feel less alone in the world and makes life worth living.
3. Treat yourself
My nutritionist wouldn’t agree but I’ll say it: if you want to eat a cookie, eat a cookie. This is my advice for you year-round. Depriving yourself makes you resentful and just grumpy. Have a cocktail! Go shopping! Visit a spa! Everything is fine as long as it is in moderation. Do something that makes you feel good. There are also things you can do that are good for you too – like taking a bath or getting a massage.
4. Give back
Another way that you can feel good is to make others feel good! In our day-to-day life, we are often so busy that we don’t feel like we can make any tangible difference in the world. Taking the time to contribute meaningfully to a cause we care about can make us feel more useful and like we have a purpose. The world can be a terrible place and we can often feel hopeless and overwhelmed, having a significant impact on our mental health. Giving back can make us feel part of the solution to the problem.
5. Get active
I never make time to work out but it is so important for my physical and mental health. The holidays are a good time to start new habits. You can also get outside and do fun social activities that help you break a sweat. Think cross-country skiing or snowshoeing or even having a snowball fight! Or take your days off to plan a new workout routine and practice it. Your opportunities are endless!
6. Spend time alone
While the holidays are a good time to catch up with friends and family, it’s also a good time to get in some quality time with the most important person in your life- you! Take a break from the hustle and bustle and reflect by yourself. I know that personally I get really overstimulated by too much activity so I need time to recharge without having to put on a mask and be social. Especially if I am experiencing symptoms related to my mental illness. It can be hard always trying to be brave when you have depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety or another mental health issue. It can drain a lot of energy. So this tip is seriously key.
7. Get creative
Is there a hobby you have been meaning to try and haven’t had time to start? Do you love to paint or draw or knit or write? Use the holidays or your spare time to engage in creative pursuits. This will provide you with an outlet to express yourself and channel your emotions. I know I always feel better when I can direct my energy into something positive and productive.
8. Take it easy
Finally, an important lesson for any time of year is to not set yourself up to fail. Lower your expectations. Focus on taking things slow and in baby steps. Try not to spend all your time attempting to make everything perfect. Instead, focus on achieving simple, realistic goals. For example, your Christmas dinner doesn’t have to be super fancy with 8 different side dishes. You don’t have to worry about everything being spotless either. Just do what you can, when you can. If your family judges you because there is a few items out of place, focus on the people who build you up, rather than bring you down.
These are my tips for taking care of yourself during the holidays or really any time of the year. Comment below with your own suggestions!