As the holiday season approaches, adorned with festive decorations and the promise of joy, individuals often find themselves caught in a whirlwind of stress, diminished mindfulness and various mental health challenges. The pressures of gift-giving, social gatherings and year-end obligations can take a toll on one’s well-being, making it essential to proactively address and prioritize mental health. Recognizing the importance of mental well-being at this time, the Catalyst has explored accessible tips and tricks aimed at helping individuals not only navigate, but truly savor the holiday season with a heightened sense of mindfulness, reduced stress and an overall improved mental state. The following strategies suggested by News in Health, Mayo Clinic, Center for Disease Control (CDC) and campus sources can provide a useful guide.
At the forefront of these strategies is the practice of mindfulness, a powerful tool to anchor oneself in the present moment and reduce anxiety. Taking a few minutes each day for mindful breathing or meditation serves as a grounding exercise, fostering a sense of calm amid the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations. This intentional pause allows individuals to reconnect with their inner selves and cultivate resilience in the face of holiday stressors.
Setting realistic expectations emerges as a crucial step in managing holiday stress. Both for oneself and others, it is essential to temper expectations to avoid unnecessary pressure. Acknowledging that perfection is not the goal allows for a more realistic and achievable approach to holiday activities, fostering an environment where joy and connection take precedence over unattainable ideals.
Incorporating physical activity into the holiday routine is the third tip, highlighting the therapeutic benefits of exercise in relieving stress. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a workout session or engaging in a favorite sport, staying active contributes not only to physical well-being, but also significantly boosts mood and reduces tension. This holistic approach recognizes the interconnectedness of physical and mental health, promoting a comprehensive well-being strategy.
Third-year Molly Erickson states, “I always suggest our yoga on Thursdays at 5:30 with Nick Gensmer. There are also multiple clubs on campus that all welcome newcomers. Clubs such as tennis club, swim club, court soccer, and archery club. I also think that something as simple as chilling in the hot tub or walking on the treadmill is a simple opportunity to improve mental health.”
Social connections, often a cornerstone of holiday festivities, play a vital role in promoting mental well-being. The fourth tip encourages individuals to spend quality time with loved ones, friends or support groups. Such connections offer comfort, understanding and a valuable support system during challenging times. Cultivating meaningful relationships contributes to a sense of belonging and emotional well-being, enriching the holiday experience.
Allowing for the social connections to initiate for the start of the holiday season, Resident Advisor (RA) and second-year William Lopez hosted a Thanksgiving Potluck on Nov. 19 to celebrate Thanksgiving for all students.
“My main goal for the potluck was to help with the social connections,” Lopez stated. “I wanted to have this event before Thanksgiving so that people who left for Thanksgiving could still feel like a part of the community.The potluck aspect made it so that people were able to participate in the event and feel like an integral part of it, even if they did just bring a single pack of saltines or an apple and a banana.”
Learning to say “no” and prioritizing self-care comprise the fifth tip, emphasizing the importance of setting boundaries and avoiding overcommitment. Overextending oneself with too many obligations can contribute to stress and detract from the joy of the season. This self-aware approach empowers individuals to make intentional choices that prioritize their well-being and enjoyment of the holidays.
Concetta Homes, Assistant Director of The Counseling and Wellness Center, told the Catalyst, “When people feel distressed, essential emotions, such as peace and joy, that can help balance stress may fade to the background. One important act of self-care for this is looking for and creating intentional experiences to highlight these essential emotions. What emotions can you work on creating? Peace, comfort, joy, calm, love, and relaxation are just a few to keep in mind. Also remember that one size does not fit all and it’s important to be intentional about engaging in the de-stressing activity.”
Establishing boundaries, the sixth tip, becomes paramount in protecting one’s time and energy. This might involve setting limits on work-related tasks or social engagements, ensuring a balance that prevents burnout and promotes well-being. By creating a framework that respects personal limits, individuals can navigate the holiday season with greater ease and fulfillment and can ultimately work to avoid those uncomfortable holiday meal conversations.
Expressing gratitude, the seventh tip, serves as a powerful mindset shift. Focusing on the positive aspects of life and expressing gratitude can significantly contribute to a more positive outlook, fostering resilience in the face of holiday challenges. The practice of gratitude encourages individuals to appreciate the meaningful moments and relationships that bring joy during the festive season.
As the holiday season unfolds, scheduling breaks and relaxation activities becomes crucial. Whether it’s reading a book, taking a soothing bath or indulging in a favorite hobby, planning relaxation time allows individuals to recharge and find moments of personal joy amid the festivities. This intentional self-care contributes to a sense of balance and renewal, enhancing overall well-being.
Ensuring adequate sleep is the ninth tip, recognizing the role of rest in maintaining a healthy mental state. Lack of sleep can contribute to heightened stress levels and mood imbalances, underscoring the importance of prioritizing a good night’s rest. Creating a sleep routine and dedicating time to rest allows individuals to approach the holiday season with greater clarity and resilience.
For those facing significant challenges during the holiday season, seeking professional support is the tenth and final tip. Talking to a mental health professional can provide guidance, offering valuable tools to navigate the complexities of this time. The Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) is a resource that individuals can turn to for professional assistance.
“I have scheduled a couple of counseling appointments as well as gotten my first prescription from there,” first-year Ellary Combs stated. “They made this new, intimidating process very easy.”
The CWC offers a range of services, including counseling, therapy and basic health care to support individuals in managing their mental health during the holiday season and beyond.
“The CWC has been very helpful in my transition to college and living on my own,” Combs added. “Their resources are available to all students and the fact that it’s free is great, and on campus, which is so accessible to students.”
Emma Solloway (’22) mentioned, “For students who don’t have insurance, it’s a great resource and they were really helpful and always super nice. It’s definitely a good place to go if you need something fast or if you don’t have the option or financial freedom to have off-campus stuff.”
“Whether or not you are feeling stressed or the holiday blues, one way to start engaging in self-care this holiday season is to join us [CWC] for A Window Between Worlds on Wednesday, December 6, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in W2130 (Peterson Residence Hall). This is an art-based workshop that allows you to engage with your thoughts and emotions through creative expression. All supplies are provided,” Homes said.
Prioritizing mental well-being during the holiday season is paramount. By incorporating these accessible tips and tricks, individuals can navigate the festivities with a heightened sense of mindfulness, reduced stress and an overall improved mental state. Celebrating the season of joy and togetherness provides opportunites to celebrate the gift of mental health, ensuring a harmonious and fulfilling holiday experience for all.