November 23, 2021 By Judy A. Dunal, MD, a Hingham resident and an internal medicine primary care provider at Brigham and Women’s Harbor Medical Associates
The holidays are typically times for sharing and giving, yet given the stress of the COVID pandemic, the possible changes in travel and social plans, the holidays can be more stressful than normal. Here are several suggestions for mitigating holiday stress and trying to maintain a sense of calm, supporting your mental health.
- It is important to create a routine this includes trying to arise and go to bed at the same time each day. This will also help adjust to time changes and help your internal “clock.”
- Do your best to exercise, if possible, outdoors during the day. This provides an opportunity to treasure the wonders of nature, chat with neighbors, and get fresh air. Regular exercise (goal walking 20 min daily at least) is helpful for strengthening our hearts, our lungs, and our minds.
- Plan your meals, as there are many opportunities during the holidays to snack on unexpected treats. Attempt to sit down when you eat or munch and try to select a certain portion of snack or food rather than allow yourself to nibble from a full bag or box or plate; this helps to curb stress eating.
- Prioritize making time for interactions with friends and family, either in person or by technology. Though you may be tired of just interacting via technology, some interpersonal communication is better than none. Connecting with family and friends allows for positive social interactions which are important to our overall health.
- Schedule activities into your day, such as exercising, calling a friend or family member, participating in a hobby, or reading. Scheduling the activity helps you generate a sense of importance about attending to your wellbeing, and you are more likely to act on this if scheduled rather than waiting for something to happen.
- It is easy to focus on what is going wrong, but it is if possible, to identify what is going smoothly in your life, you may help shift the framework inside your brain to look for the positive. Finding an area of joy helps to make us feel connected, more alive, and happy. Some may start a gratitude journal focusing on things we are grateful for, and this can improve our mood and outlook
- Always reach out to your primary care provider with any concerns you may have.
You can learn more about how to manage your mental health during the winter months from the experts at Brigham and Women’s Hospital on the Brigham Health Hub.