By Georgina Berbari with Michelle Chun
Art by R.C. Gorman
The holiday season is a ripe time for warm congenialness and joyous family reunions. Families that have not seen each other in months come together to celebrate, and we cherish the time that we have with our loved ones.
However, this year, due to the world’s circumstances holidays will likely look different than usual. Still, it’s important to check in with yourself even when it comes to small family reunions, Zoom gatherings, and the like.
We can oftentimes become overzealous during the holidays and dismiss our own self-care because we are so focused on everyone around us. Thankfully, there are ways to keep ourselves in check in order to avoid burnout. Below, Luminary spoke with mental health professionals in order to provide you with intentional ways of maintaining equanimity during a not-so-normal holiday season.
Guided Imagery Meditation
“We are all worn out from witnessing the atrocity of illnesses and the tension surrounding the election along with our everyday human stresses,” Mary Joye LMHC a licensed mental health counselor tells New Lum.
According to Joye, guided imagery is the best kind of meditation to reduce intrusive thoughts. It’s best done in the morning just after awakening from the theta state (the intriguing border between conscious and subconscious states in which it is said manifestation becomes almost-effortless).
So how does one begin a guided imagery meditation? “Beginning a meditation with gratitude is wonderful,” Joye suggests. “I love the six phase meditation by Mindvalley where you begin with gratitude then move to compassion for yourself and others then releasing negative charges and forgiveness of others.”
The last three phases are imagining your wonderful future, imagining the perfect day they can help you reach your future and then spiritual support from any power you believe in including yourself if that is what works best for you
Also, according to Joye, lowering expectations about holidays when you’re an adult and realizing that this is a day for children mostly helps us to not put so much emphasis on one day over another.
When it’s difficult to lift our spirits during the chaos of the holiday season, gratitude is essential.
“Gratitude practices are associated with reduced levels of cortisol, the stress hormone,” Amanda S. Brown, MSN, PMHNP-BC a Nurse Practitioner at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Associate in Psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center tells New Lum.
There are simple ways to implement gratitude therapy into your life. In terms of giving back, try doing a good deed, such as donating to charity of your choice. Try researching charities that convey your personal interests and areas of activism that you are most passionate about.
Homemade gifts can be a rewarding and intimate way of expressing appreciation, as well. Knit a sweater, make a photo album, or bake some holiday goodies such as pumpkin pie or gingerbread cookies for your loved ones.
Another source of gratitude therapy would be doing gratitude journaling. Write down everything that you are thankful for over the past year and what you are most looking forward to in the new year. Reflecting on personal achievements and manifesting new goals are a vital step for self-care and self-growth.
Most people understand that self-care is an essential part of staying physically and mentally healthy. However, for many people, learning to practice self-care regularly can be a process that can feel challenging.
“Whether you work full-time, are a stay-at-home mom, a caregiver for an elderly parent, or a healthcare employee working long hours during the pandemic; finding the time to nourish your mind, body and soul must be made a priority,” Life coach Dana Humphrey tells New Lum. “It’s important to remember that self-care is not about being selfish. It is about replenishing and refreshing your spirit in different ways.”
The first step is to set boundaries. According to Nick Bognar, LMFT, in these times where people’s comfort with disease risk is so highly variable, we need to be prepared to use the word “no”. “[No is] always a good word to have command of, but never more than now,” Bognar says. “If you don’t want to do something, or don’t feel safe doing something, get out that kind, gentle-but-firm ‘no’ and use it liberally.”
Making Time For Movement
Simply taking a walk in nature could serve to replenish you more deeply than you imagined. Walking has been shown to be valuable in improving mental health, particularly depression. When you do go for a walk, Humphrey suggests setting your focus on just the experience of walking and your surroundings.
“Let the beauty of nature feed your soul,” says Humphrey. “Your feet on the ground, the fresh air, the sunshine… Be mindful, embrace each step and you will be sure to feel rejuvenated afterwards.”
And if walking isn’t your cup of tea, consider stepping into the light through dance. “Dancing to your favorite song is a great way to work out your body and release tension,” says Humphrey. “Dance is so much more than exercise–it’s about getting to know you. So dance like nobody’s watching and reap the many benefits that come along with it!”
Keep in mind that these forms of movement are merely suggestions. Any way you move your body that brings you joy (yoga, biking, running, lifting weights, and so on) will serve to markedly boost your body’s endorphins.
Still, sometimes professional therapy is needed as an intervention and that’s OK. For example, if you’re recovering from an eating disorder such as anorexia, making time for movement wouldn’t be a productive course of action. In a case such as this, listen to your support team if you have one, take your medications if you’re on any, and remember to breathe deeply and give yourself credit for how hard you’re working.
And remember, whether it be an eating disorder or any other mental illness, taking the first step to acknowledge or voice your struggle can be exceedingly difficult. However, your overall health and well-being is always a priority and you deserve the best care. No matter who you are, if you’re choosing recovery — especially during the tricky time that is the holiday season — be proud of yourself. You’re accomplishing an exceptionally hard feat, and I, for one, am tremendously proud of you.
Below New Lum has put together a brief comprehensive list of mental-health hotlines and resources.
- (240-485-1001): Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)–info on prevention, treatment, and symptoms on anxiety, depression, related conditions
- (800-931-2237): National Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders (NCEED)–info on current and evidence-based info about eating disorders
- (1-847-831-3438): National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
- As holiday season is consumed with foods it can trigger relapse or any existing stressors for anyone dealing with eating disorders or body dysmorphia
- (800-950-6264): The National Alliance on Mental Illness–free service with info, support, and referrals for people living with mental health issues or anyone that has family members that struggle with these conditions
Please note: This is by no means an exhaustive list, rather a starting point for helpful resources and guidance.
If you’re feeling suicidal or know anyone who is, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. is at 1-800-273-8255.