Nichole Hall, MS, ATR-BC,
Healthy Living

Maintaining Your Mental Health During the Holidays

Dec 22 2021

“The holidays can be a stressful time, and probably even more so now than other years,” Nichole Hall, MS, ATR-BC, quality, operations and programs manager of behavioral health at Mercy Health – Clermont Hospital, shares.

With everyone having to adapt to the new norms because of the COVID-19 pandemic, holiday celebrations and gatherings might have you experiencing more holiday stress than normal.  

Here are some helpful tips on managing stress, particularly at this time.  

Don’t underestimate a good night’s rest.

Sleep can go a long way in decreasing stress and managing emotions. Before going to bed, try and wind down. “Create less stimulation around you. Turn off the TV and stay off your phone. The blue light from the screens can actually keep you awake,” Nichole shares.

Take a deep belly breath.

“This simple action has big pay-off, lowering stress, reducing blood pressure, increasing energy, improving digestion, correcting posture and improving immunity,” Nichole says. To take a deep belly breath, sit or lie down and place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly as you fill and empty your lungs. This allows you to center yourself and distract your brain from your surroundings for a few minutes.

Be mindful.

“Mindfulness is the practice of being in the here and now. Feeling present in the moment allows you to observe how you feel physically, emotionally and mentally,” Nicole shares. “Mindfulness encourages us to SLOW DOWN, BREATHE and take notice of life’s details, something with which we all struggle with in this fast-paced world.”

Surround yourself with healthy supports.

The people with whom we spend time have an incredible impact on our sense of self and well-being. Don’t be afraid to limit your interactions with those you find toxic (this may include family). Also, find ways to take small escapes during family gatherings if necessary.

Remember to move.

Any movement is good, no matter how small – take a brisk walk, or stand up and stretch. Movement allows the brain to release endorphins, which help distract from the stress you may be feeling.

Set limits.

“Remember, it is OK to say ‘no,’” Nichole shares. Over-extension of self brings more stress to the holidays. Saying no to unhealthy food, substances and/or people allows space for good things to manifest.

Express gratitude.

Gratitude could be considered a cousin to mindfulness. Once you notice the details of your experience, write them down. Be specific. Gratitude works best when we link “the why” to items on our gratitude list. Why are you grateful for your morning coffee? Maybe because the mug you drink from was given to you by your best friend. You can take this one step further by identifying the emotion you feel when drinking your morning coffee. “Your gratitude journaling will likely develop to include other experiences and memories,” Nichole says.

And always remember to smile!

“Smiling even when you don’t feel like it can boost your mood,” Nicole shares. Plus, smiling tends to cause others to smile in response.

Stress can be overwhelming, particularly around the holidays. Just remember this is true for most people. We don’t always know the stories of others and we often make assumptions.

“It is important to care for one another and remember to be kind … and smile!” Nichole adds.  

Learn more about the integrated behavioral health services we offer at Mercy Health.

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