For many people, the holidays are going to look different this year (thank you COVID-19). The holidays are a special time where family and friends create memories together. In this article, we wrote 5 basic tips to help boost mental health during and after the 2020 holiday season.
Although the pandemic has affected everyone in different ways, there seems to be little doubt that the average mental health of Americans has declined. At a time when loved ones are the closest, they might be far away due to travel restrictions. Looking after mental health is more important than ever this holiday season.
In this article, we will look at ways to stop the holiday blues. Even without a global pandemic, the holidays are a stressful time, so with the added pressures, it is important to focus on mental health. Here are some small ways to practice self-care and improve mental health.
Even in our modern digital world, sleep is still highly important. We all need to do better. Not getting enough sleep interferes with our mood. Research has proven that lack of sleep amplifies the negative emotional effects of disruptive events while reducing the positive effect of goal making. In other words, less sleep means we feel negative when things don’t go our way and less likely to feel good when things go well. The amount of sleep we need depends on the person but most people need 7-8 hours per night. Waking up and going to bed the same time everyday is the best way to maximize sleep. This way your body becomes accustomed to knowing when it is time to rest.
Just like sleep, exercise is another healthy way to take care of ourselves. As it gets colder outside, we may be more inclined to stay home and snuggle up on the couch. Science proves that physical activity can boost mood short and long term. Exercising has been proving to have a good relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and mental health disorders. Physical activity is proven to confer protection against depression and anxiety.
Note: You do not need to run a 4 minute mile to gain exercise benefits. Studies show that short, 10-15 minute walks increase relaxation and boost mood. So even things like walking your dog and dancing in your kitchen count. Any type of movement that makes you happy, go for it!
Call a friend
Loneliness has been a significant feature of this year. But luckily we live in an age where technology can help us connect with each other at the tips of our fingers. The holidays may intensify those feelings. To help combat that lonely feeling, make an effort to make contact. Whether its a video chat or a simple phone call, schedule time to have conversations with family and friends. Remember, you are not the only one feeling lonely during this tough time. If it is safe in your area, meet up with a friend somewhere to take a walk.
Check in with family and friends- texts, emails, and social media are great ways in times like this. A simple “How are you” to someone you miss goes a long way. And guess what, they likely miss you, too.
Remember to stay busy. So much more time on our hands can feel like the world is moving at a slow pace. Find a podcast, start drawing again, try a new recipe, pick up the guitar, listen to your favorite album, or anything else. An occupied mind is less likely to engage in loneliness.
Eat and Drink Well
The Holidays are filled with delicious treats and food. The season is associated in no small part with overindulgence. It is not fair to expect people, in 2020 of all years, to reduce the turkey intake. However, there is evidence that what we eat impacts our mood. Recent studies incur that healthy eating patterns are associated with better mental health than unhealthy eating patterns, such as the Western diet. The Mediterranean diet is a proven method to improve mood and mental health. So with this in mind, make sure to reach for more vegetables and drink plenty of water.
Be mindful of expectations
Everyone is on different pages when it comes to the pandemic. Some people might still be shielding while others are returning to normalcy. Some family members may be opposed to getting together while others may be embracing the idea. These differences have the potential to cause negative feelings and disappointment and stress. Have important discussions with family and friends about what to expect. Know that pandemic is temporary and next Christmas will see some sense of normalcy again. There already is a vaccine so things are looking up! The most sensible option is to limit human contact as much as possible and stick with your housemates. Although there are different rules across the country, it is most important to do what makes you comfortable. Follow your gut and do what makes you happy.
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