Ways to boost your mental health during the holidays

There is need to have enough rest. 

What you need to know:

  • Not everything will go according to plan. Accepting that in advance can help to reduce the stress when something crops up.

Stress is a psychological reaction to an imbalance between the demands placed on a person and that person’s ability to meet those demands.

Although the festive season is supposed to be a joyous celebration, it brings nothing but stress for some people due to the overwhelming expenses that come with the season. 

The worry of travelling away from home, buying the right gifts or seeing relatives you have not seen in a long time, coupled with the thought of paying school fees at the beginning of the New Year can even trigger generalised anxiety disorder.

As much as we love the holidays, they are undeniably a stressful time of year and coping can sometimes feel impossible.

According to Ali Male, a counselling psychologist at A-Z counselling Services, stress affects all aspects of your life. No part of the body is immune to it and is likely to affect your emotions, behaviour, thinking ability and physical health.

Get enough sleep
Stress is known to increase during the holidays due to an escalation of demands in family issues and being unable to manage expectations. This could bring about financial and emotional stress.

You, therefore, need to have enough rest, reducing the likelihood of becoming physically sick and emotionally overwhelmed during the holiday season.

“Good sleep hygiene includes establishing a consistent sleep pattern, limiting daytime naps if you do not fall asleep until late at night and taking a warm bath before you sleep,” Male says. He also recommends cutting out stimulating drinks such as alcohol or coffee close to bedtime and keeping screens such as televisions, smartphones and tablets out of the bedroom if possible.

Eat well
During stressful times, it is important to pay close attention to your bodily demands. Your body needs nutrients that will boost your immune system. According to Ivan Philip Baguma, a nutritionist at Nella Organics, “This can be achieved by eating a balanced diet but also paying more attention to minerals such as magnesium that will help relax muscles and decrease anxiety. Take zinc to boost your immune system as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which are powerful anti-inflammatories.”

Magnesium-rich foods include wheat, spinach, peanuts, black beans, avocado, and Omega-3 rich foods include sesame, chia seeds as well as fish. The foods that contain zinc are meat, legumes, nuts, grains among others. Also, happy fruits like apples, bananas, grapes and oranges can help boost your mood.

Treat yourself
When you have a considerably overwhelming to-do list, try to assess what is reasonable and let go of the things that are beyond your control. Have a top priority list of things to do, focusing on those that are important to you and not other people. 

Do not focus so much on the things you have failed to accomplish but be happy for those things you finished. When you are stressed, it is easy to forget about your own health. Listen to music, read a book, exercise and if possible, set things aside that can wait until next year.

“Make time for a daily routine for something you enjoy doing and would make you relaxed. To your routine exercise, you may add a less strenuous activity like walking, yoga or meditation that would help reduce blood pressure and stress,” Male says.

If you have little time to accomplish some tasks, it is important that you involve your workmates or family members. This will make the tasks less stressful and enjoyable for the whole family since everyone is involved.
You can also ask your spouse to watch the children while you schedule some time alone. Seeking some solitude is both healthy and necessary to reduce stress.

Draw clear boundaries
If you want to avoid stress, it is important that you draw clear boundaries between work and personal time. Learn to feel okay about saying no and putting yourself first. Practice effective time management and effective communication.

“If you are at work, ensure that you deliver your assignments on time. Do not procrastinate but when you are off for leave no matter how short it is, make it clear that you cannot respond to texts or emails and do not feel pressured into filling in for co-workers who ask to swap shifts,” Male warns.

For some people, the festive season may bring memories of the loss of a loved one. If you have lost a loved one or are facing other difficult life situations, you may feel sad. Do not ignore the feeling of grief or sadness; it is normal to express these feelings rather than suppressing them, which can cause stress to you.

“Talk freely about what you have enjoyed with your loved one in the past because pretending as if the loss does not affect you will make things worse. Going out to volunteer will give you a sense of belonging and being loved,” Edward Ssempiira, a psychologist at Hope and beyond, says.

Take time off when sick, vacations, day trips or mini vacations, have a massage or beauty treatment, dance, swim, walk, run, play sports, sing, or do some other physical activity that is fun for you, get enough sleep, set realistic goals.
Seek help from friends or religious leaders who can lift you up spiritually and help you restore your hope and view about life.

Practice gratitude
Each new day is a chance for you to count your blessings, remembering what you have instead of worrying about what you do not. 

“Take a minute to appreciate the abundance of love, health, family and friends. One of the most important things in life are the things that make us the happiest; good relationships with family and friends, a partner we can share our life with and a full schedule of social activities that involve lots of smiling and laughing,” says Ali Male, a counselling psychologist.