It’s actually kind of weird that there’s an entire month of the year when you’re supposed to be feeling chipper and grateful all the time. That’s just not how being a person works.
Paulette Janus, behavioral health specialist and founder of Janus Behavioral Health Services, knows how we feel. “I would point out the irony that ‘the miracle of this time of year’ (as people often say) can be so stressful and overwhelming for many,” he says. Tell us about it, Janus!
Keep a regular schedule
What does your normal day look like? Don’t neglect that routine during the holidays. Basically, you have to make your holiday life look as close as possible to your regular life.
Try waking up and going to bed at normal times, taking regular walks, and not totally jam-packing your day. You body and mind will thank you in the new year.
When it all just gets too overwhelming, pause. “Focus on the events you want to attend,” Janus tells us, “and the people you want to spend time with … eliminate all the other noise that gets in the way of really enjoying what brings you joy.”
If what brings you joy is curling up with your pet and a good book, or baking cookies, or dancing alone to holiday tunes, let that be on your schedule this month.
You don’t need to constantly be on this holiday season (even though it’s pretty much expected of women in our society, ugh). If you open up to a friend about it, she’ll almost definitely understand your need for some alone time.
You made it this far through this insane year; you deserve a break.
Care for your immune system
First of all, if you haven’t gotten your flu shot, just do it already. Target will literally give you $5 back for it. After you’ve done that, you can take some other preventative measures to make sure your holiday burnout doesn’t effect your immune system.
You’ve also gotta protect your gut this season (so you can keep eating cookies and eggnog.) Some of Kumai’s other tips include eating “plenty of fermented foods,” and cooking with miso paste and yogurt. She’s also a big fan of kombucha.
If you can keep the booze consumption to a dull roar this month, congrats! Alcohol consumption actually suppresses your immune system. Kumai usually has nights with two-drink limits, and recommends that you drinking water before you go out. Also, keep eating while you’re drinking. It’s a proven way to prevent getting too drunk too fast.
Have a to-do list to take care of yourself
“You will be fatigued, overwhelmed, and simply run down if you do not fill your emotional cup first,” Janus says. “This is not being self-centered; it is recognizing that when you are your best self, you are in a better position to help others.”
And if this happens to be your first (or fifth) holiday after a traumatic experience or a loss, you’re in our hearts. Janus says that the event doesn’t need to cloud this time of year forever.
“If this is the first holiday for you after such an event, recognize that trying to do things like they have always been may bring more grief than joy. Consider starting new traditions.”
So maybe create a second to-do list. This one can be full of things you’ll do for yourself, and only yourself, this holiday season. And hey, self care is easy when you’ve got a 31-point list.
It’s actually scientifically proven that giving back helps your brain by reducing stress and increasing positive feelings associated with caregiving and reward. Janus recommends adding giving back as a natural extension of gift-giving. She calls it the “one in, one out option.”
“Clutter can lead to stress, and who hasn’t had the experience after the holidays of looking around and questioning ‘why so much stuff?’” So, for every item you bring into your home, you donate something you already have. You’ll declutter a bit while practicing generosity.
Acts of kindness just feel particularly ~festive~ this time of year. Less stress and more cheer? That’s the ideal recipe for a happy December.
When Kumai is visiting home, she makes sure to keep active in whatever way possible, often by going on beach runs (she’s from Cali). If you’re in a bigger city, you can of course check out local gym class offerings, but if you’re in a more rural area, you’re not out of luck.
Take yourself on longer walk in the woods, sing “Winter Wonderland,” and just try not to feel more festive. Whatever it is, even if it’s just a long walk with your family dog, it’s a great way to keep the bad thoughts and feelings at bay.
Kumai has some great trips for traveling without getting sick or feeling super icky from airplane food. Pack some “healthy(ish) snacks,” she says, including “your favorite fruit, raw nuts, and lots of veggies when you can.”
Also, Kumai (who drinks 10 bottles of water a day!) is all about hydration, and packs a reusable water bottle when she’s traveling. This is a big one. The Aerospace Medical Association suggests drinking 8oz of water for every hour you’re in flight, BTW.
Drinking water on planes is a great hack for another reason too. The more water you drink, the more you’ll have to pee. This will keep you up and moving throughout your trip, preventing any circulation problems associated with long flights.
Just make sure you aren’t drinking airplane tap water!
Learn to say “no”
Janus recommends giving yourself the permission to not do anything you can’t or don’t want to do: “Give yourself permission to say no without guilt.”
When you say “no” you can focus on some of those “me time” activities we mentioned above, and improve your mental health. She also recommends reminding yourself that life is different than Facebook. It may sound like a “duh” but we all need reminding every once and a while.
Don’t “fall into the social media trap,” she says. “Reality is different than Facebook. Remember that most people post only positive things on social media…their magazine-worthy tree or perfectly decorated cookies.”
Remember what the holidays are for
Cheesy? Yes. True? Also yes. While we’re not here to tell you what the holidays are for, we do want to remind you to stay mindful.
“Commercialism has taken over the holidays,” Janus says. “It is cliche but true. Instead of focusing on giving the perfect gift, focus on enjoying the time with those who mean the most to you, family and friends. Experiences and the memories of those experiences that you will carry with you lead to greater happiness than material items.”
A great way to keep in this frame of mind is jotting for five minutes a day in a prompt journal like I’m Doing My Best. That way, you can actually keep track, day by day, of how you’re staying grateful this holiday season.
In an article on the holiday blues, the doctors at UC Davis Health reminded readers to keep healthy expectations about themselves and their family.
You may not have be surrounded by Hallmark characters (or be a Hallmark character yourself), but that doesn’t mean you should feel incapable of feeling at least someholiday cheer.