The holiday’s are marketed as being a time of happiness, joy, and love. However, we know that this isn’t always the case. In fact, the American Psychological Association reported that up to 38% of people say that they experience increased stress during the holidays (1). Another statistic reported that 64% of people that already suffered from a mental illness experienced worsening conditions this time of year (1). While these statistics can be overwhelming, and even slightly saddening, we at Wild.AI are here to support you! We hope that this article provides you with some ways to protect your mental health during this time.
The overarching theme of how to overcome negative emotions this season boils down to practicing self-care. Self-care has been defined in a variety of ways, but in essence, it means doing something that fosters overall well-being. Self-care can be broken down into more specific categories, including emotional, spiritual, social, mental, and physical.
Emotional self-care includes acknowledging and allowing yourself to feel emotions that may arise. This can be especially crucial during the holidays when you may feel pressure to be happy and joyous all the time. Allowing yourself to bask in the joy, but also fully feel the anxiety and grief you may be experiencing, can allow you to feel fully in tune with yourself (2).
Some common practices of self-care may include practicing mindfulness through meditation or breathing exercises; practicing gratitude, and journaling your feelings (3). Noting emotions that you may be feeling in the notes section of your Wild.AI check-in is a great way to track how you are feeling throughout seasons, notice common trends, and fully check-in with yourself.
Spiritual self-care does not have to be related to religion, although, for some, it may. Instead, spiritual self-care involves anything that can connect you to something bigger (3). This can include getting into nature, meditating, etc.
Humans are inherently social beings. Maintaining social relationships are important not only to mental health, but to physical health as well. A 2017 study reported that loneliness is correlated with negative cardiovascular risks across life stages (4). That being said, maintaining a healthy social life also involves maintaining boundaries, and taking breaks when needed. The increased social nature of the holiday season can be overwhelming and exhausting for those that require alone-time to recharge. Practicing social self-care could involve setting up a coffee date with an old friend, but it could also be setting a much needed boundary with family members to protect your relationship.
Exercising your mind is just as important as exercising your body. Actively challenging your brain through so-called “brain games,” challenging tasks, etc. is correlated with slowing the rate of brain atrophy and cognitive decline (5). You can help keep your brain sharp during the holidays by doing puzzles with family, reading daily, and other brain-related activities!
Physical self-care involves any activity that can help foster physical well-being. While we most often think of exercise as the only form of this type of self-care, this category can also include staying hydrated, sleeping well, and eating a well balanced diet (3).
Aside from helping ward off the dangers of poor health, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc., maintaining good physical health is actually closely tied to maintaining good mental health. The “endorphin hypothesis” proposes that exercise can stimulate release of opioids, increasing mood, and potentially attenuating some symptoms associated with depression and anxiety (6).
As we mentioned in our “Why Exercise And Diet Shouldn't Control Your Holiday Season” post, it can be difficult to fit in workouts during this hectic time of year. The good news is that whatever workout you can fit in, can help boost your mood. One study reported that higher intensity activities might boost your mood more (like a 20 minute HIIT session) (6). However, if that seems out of question, getting outside and going for a walk can be a good stress reliever as well!
Maintaining your physical health does often entail intentional movement of your body and eating nutritious foods. However, it’s important to keep in mind that over-exerting yourself or under-fueling your body can also be extremely detrimental to your health. Overtraining can not only put your physical health at risk, but it can affect your mental health as well. Specifically, overtraining can increase depressive symptoms, and decrease self-esteem and motivation (7). When training, particularly during stressful times (like the holidays), always be sure you are fueling yourself adequately, sleeping enough, and taking the time to truly give yourself a break.
Whatever your choice of movement, ensuring that you’re taking care of yourself this holiday season is important to maintaining your overall health and wellness. Using health trackers, like the Oura Ring, in combination with Wild.AI, can help you ensure that you’re staying healthy. You can easily order an Oura Ring through the Wild.AI shop!
Self care can take on a variety of meanings, depending on what feels healing for you. For some, that might mean taking the day to read in bed; while for others that may mean going on a long run. Whatever your definition of self-care means, be sure to give yourself a little extra this season.
- Guide to Managing Mental Health Around the Holidays | McLean Hospital. (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2022, from https://www.mcleanhospital.org/essential/mcleans-guide-managing-mental-health-around-holidays#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20American%20Psychological,%2Dgiving%2C%20and%20family%20gatherings
- Emotional Self-Care: What It Is and How to Make It Part of Your Life. (2022, January 10). Advantage Care Health Center. https://advantagecaredtc.org/emotional-self-care/
- Six Types of Self Care. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://secure.everyaction.com/p/Pg5bqblugE6-NGId09RIcQ2
- Hare Duke, L. (2017). The importance of social ties in mental health. Mental Health and Social Inclusion, 21(5), 264-270. Retrieved from http://libproxy.usc.edu/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/importance-social-ties-mental-health/docview/1958504819/se-2
- Anderson, K. & Grossberg, G.T. (2014). Brain Games to Slow Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 15(8), 536–537. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2014.04.014
- Dinas, P. C., Koutedakis, Y., & Flouris, A. D. (2011). Effects of exercise and physical activity on depression. Irish Journal of Medical Science, 180(2), 319–325. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11845-010-0633-9
- Chung, Y., Hsiao, Y.-T., & Huang, W.-C. (2021). Physiological and Psychological Effects of Treadmill Overtraining Implementation. Biology, 10(6), 515. https://doi.org/10.3390/biology10060515