/ by Sarah Lester, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, CCRN-K,CNRN, SCRN
Written by Sarah Lester, director of Nursing Professional Practice and Excellence.
For many people, the holidays bring about feelings of excitement and cheer, but for some, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be a catalyst for stress, anxiety, loneliness and even depression. All the demands of the holiday season – including shopping, cleaning, baking and entertaining – can be overwhelming.
To help keep your mental health in tip-top shape, try these simple tips to reduce your stress:
1. Make a plan. Planning events and errands as soon as possible can dramatically reduce stress. Some tips include:
- Finalize travel plans several weeks in advance when possible.
- Arrange child care/pet care/home care ASAP.
- Schedule needed time off with your employer as soon as plans are finalized.
2. Create a budget. Holiday shopping can often lead to financial stress and overspending. Prior to marking off your loved ones’ wish lists, develop a reasonable budget and stick to it. Items to consider for your holiday budget might include:
- Events (hosting or attending).
- Charitable giving.
3. Don't forget to exercise. Physical activity reduces stress and improves mood and feelings of well-being. While outdoor exercise may be a challenge in the winter months, consider alternative ways to stay active:
- Walk indoors. Consider public spaces, such as the mall.
- Be more active inside your home. Walk or dance to your favorite holiday songs.
- Be more active at your workplace. Get up from your desk hourly and walk around your office – those extra steps can even encourage creative thinking!
4. Make healthy eating choices. The average American gains between seven to 10 pounds during the holiday season. Poor nutrition can worsen stress and lead to feelings of guilt, sadness or depression. Alcohol consumption can also worsen feelings of sadness or depression. If you drink alcohol, the CDC recommends no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men.
5. Get plenty of sleep. Sleep deprivation can worsen feelings of stress and depression. The CDC recommends at least seven hours of sleep a night for adults.
6. Reflect and connect. The holidays are full of memories and tradition. For those who have lost loved ones, holiday memories that were once joyful may bring about feelings of sadness or grief. Take time to be mindful and reflect on the causes of your stress or sadness. Connect with a trusted loved one or a trained mental health professional to talk about your feelings and to develop tips for coping around the holiday season.
7. Recognize suicidal thoughts as a medical emergency. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact 911 or go to your closest emergency department, as this should be considered a medical emergency. You can also contact a national suicide hotline for help and support:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 (800-273-TALK) or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
- National Institute of Mental Health: 866-615-6464 or visit www.nimh.nih.gov.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: 800-950-6264 or visit www.nami.org.
- Mental Health America: 800-969-6642 or visit www.mentalhealthamerica.net.
From all of us at UK HealthCare, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday season and a wonderful new year!