It’s two weeks until Thanksgiving and I can feel the collective tension mixed with excitement and anxiety as we all begin to prepare ourselves for the upcoming holiday season.
“Can you believe it’s only two weeks away,” we ask each other with wonder and a bit of fear, realizing that soon we will be thrust into the chaos of the holidays which can be happy and exciting but is also all-encompassing and overwhelming.
As I’m sitting on the edge to the season with you there is one thing that I know for sure, we all need to be making time for our own mental health needs. Yes, we all know this, especially now when mental health is more prevalent in our culture, getting media attention, and finally being touted as “just as important as physical health.” We know it’s important but that is waaaay different than knowing how to make time for it and keep it a high priority while every other thing that requires your time and attention comes knocking,
the immediate needs of your children and all of the upcoming holiday concerts, dinners, events, gatherings and parties
the needs of other family members including your spouse, pets, parents, grandparents, Great Aunt Betty, and the rest of your clan
the needs of your job, boss, co-workers, clients, and office plants
the needs of your friends, acquaintances, and people you encounter as you move throughout your days
If all of these needs listed above come before your own needs for maintaining mental health, I can assure you, you will be in for a whirlwind of a holiday season complete with an emotional breakdown or two (I know because I’ve been there too).
“What am I supposed to do,” you may be thinking right about now, “how can I possibly manage it all??” Well, you can’t handle it all. No one can handle it all.
Here’s a huge tip about mental health, from someone who’s been there and helps others through the struggle every day, you have to set your priorities and hold to them if you are ever going to get through all life has to offer or throw at you.
“But everything is important,” you rail! Yes, and everything can’t be at equal levels of importance for you, or for any one person; that is the recipe for burnout.
You know burnout, that state of frustration, overwhelm, sarcasm, annoyance, and exhaustion all rolled up into a terrifying ball within your being. When your motivation has plummeted and nothing seems worth your time anymore. When your spark has faded so much that it is hardly a glimmer anymore. When you catch yourself saying things you don’t fully mean in a tone you didn’t think possible to come from your mouth. When you just can’t anymore.
Without clearly identifying our priorities we will quickly find ourselves on the path to burnout as we attempt to accomplish everything while completely neglecting our own needs.
So, from someone who knows, and someone who teaches these skills, here are my top tips for getting through the holiday season without reaching that state of burnout, so that you are able to enjoy the season while fully functioning.
1. Prioritize! - Figure out what is going to be MOST important to you this holiday season, pick a top 3, AT MOST, and hold to them. For example, keeping the house tidy for guests, finishing gift shopping early, setting a budget for holiday spending, focusing on connections with loved ones rather than making one more batch of cookies or trying to find one more perfect present. Once you have your top three priorities for the holidays you can move on to the next step.
2. Make Time For Your Own Mental Health! - Yes, this is a biggy and perhaps you are wondering why I didn’t list it above with priorities. We need to make time for ourselves throughout the year and every season, this is not something we can only tend to when it is breaking down, we need to be bringing consistent care to ourselves and our own needs to prevent burnout, shutdown, breakdown, whatever you want to call it. Planning ahead is a HUGE strategy for being able to actually accomplish what you want, so plan ahead for your mental health. You can set aside alone time, time for creativity, time for exercise, connection with nature or animals, time with a supportive group of people who will hold and cherish your needs, time for therapy, time to connect with your partner, and whatever else you feel necessary to honor your mental health needs. Now when I say set time aside, I mean it! Go into your calendar, mark off your time, and hold yourself to it. Think about it, you make time for your work, your kids, your doctor’s appointments, this is how it all gets done: by planning ahead and setting that time aside. If you keep thinking about your needs last then they will never come first.
3. Be Present In The Moment! - Now that you know your priorities and you’ve set aside time for yourself, it’s time to cherish the moments. You have planned ahead, you have sat down and decided where your focus will be this holiday season, now you can appreciate all that hard work you did beforehand and relish in the moment. What would even be the point of all the special seasonal events if we never stop to honor what is happening right now? So I implore you to do your best to be really there when you are participating in what you have deemed most important. Connect with your loved ones, make eye contact, continually bring your attention back to what is happening right now even when thoughts of what is coming next or what happened a week ago keep popping into your head. This is how we can be present, just keep coming back. We will never make all of the thoughts go away, we need to learn to live with them and decide where we place our attention: on the random thoughts that pop into our heads or on what’s happening in the present moment.
There you have it, a 3 step guide to managing your holiday season and mental health and focusing on what you deem to be most important this year. Let me know how it goes!
If you are looking for ways to get creative and nurture your needs this season, check out our upcoming workshop for adults where we will be blending collage activities and mindfulness to foster self-connection. Click here for more details and to reserve your spot today!