Tracy Morrison, Social Worker and Kristine Leggett, Clinical Resource Leader
Tracy Morrison, Social Worker with Kristine Leggett, Clinical Resource Leader

Mental wellness during the holidays: MGH experts offer 8 simple tips to manage stress

“It’s the most joyous time of the year.”

As December approaches, this seems to be a phrase we hear a lot. But for many, this is simply not the case. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious or stressed during the holiday season, you’re not alone!

We asked our MGH experts – Clinical Resource Leader, Kristine Leggett and Social Worker, Tracy Morrison – for some tips on coping with holiday stressors and maintaining mental wellness during an often hectic season.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. Limit your intake of treats and alcohol

“People often forget or don’t understand how the brain and digestive system are connected,” says Kristine. “Overindulging in sugary treats and alcohol can really impact how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.”

2. Practice self-care

“No matter how busy you feel, take time for yourself. You will feel better and it will help you to help others,” says Tracy. “Get enough sleep, eat as normally as possible, don’t forget to exercise, and consider trying mindful meditation.”

There are lots of free apps that will help you learn mindful techniques if you don’t know where to begin.

3. Give back to others

Look beyond your own sense of alienation, loss or seasonal challenges by making a plan to give back to others. Two examples are visiting isolated seniors in a long-term care facility or helping to serve a community holiday meal.

4. Budget

Set a budget and stick to it – a great start is by paying by cash or debit.

5. Be aware that grief may surface

For many people, the holidays are a sharp reminder of grief. A great tip is to find a way to connect yourself physically to the person you’re grieving. “Rather than living in your head, find something physical that connects you to a good memory or feeling; touching or holding it when you need to can really ground you,” says Kristine.

“For me, it’s a rock that I carry in my pocket. But it can be a scarf, a bead, or a piece of jewelry, anything that has a positive connection for you.”

6. Remember your own needs

Stop to think about when your expectations or those of others may be unrealistic. Pace yourself and communicate your boundaries and limitations with your family and friends.

7. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

SAD hits people during December. Try not to stay indoors too much – it’s best to get outside into the daylight every day.

8. Don’t make New Year’s Resolutions

As 2018 comes to an end, it’s great to reflect on the past year and look forward to 2019, but don’t set New Year’s resolutions. They will put unnecessary pressure on you. If you want to change something, do it any time you feel ready – just not on New Year’s Day!

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