We all know that the holidays can be a stressful time of year, and since it’s going to look a lot different this year, we can expect an added layer of stress and sadness.
If you’re spending the holidays alone, it can be lonely and challenging. Nevertheless, to make your time spent alone a lot easier, we tapped five mental health professionals to share their best self-care tips to boost your mood.
Focus on the good
Whether it’s writing a gratitude list, or taking the time to meditate, focusing on all the blessings in your life always puts you in a good state of mind, according to Erin Wiley, a licensed clinical psychotherapist, MA, LPC, LPCC.
“Writing and meditating on the things we are grateful for is a proven method to increase joy because it helps us find the positive, no matter our situation,” Wiley explains. “If you do it every day, you will find over time that you see wonderful things all around you to add to your list for the next day’s gratitudes.”
Enjoy your time alone
Let’s be honest: the holidays are notoriously busy — even in times of social isolation. With this in mind, Wiley suggests giving yourself permission to enjoy your time alone and using it as an opportunity to unplug from the stressors of the world.
“Get away from the internet, social media, and other busy distractions, and spend some quiet time in solitude,” she says. “Even if you are an extrovert, it’s good to slow down and give our brains a break from the chaos.”
Help those in need
Since this holiday season will be tough for so many this year, Wiley recommends focusing your energy on people in need, especially in a year where so many have struggled with maintaining a stable income.
“Giving back can be as simple as an anonymous $10 gift card for the grocery store or gas station, or as elaborate as ‘adopting’ a local family in need for gift-giving,” she tells FabFitFun. “Keeping our eyes off of our own troubles, and instead focusing on helping others, is a solid strategy for increased joy.”
The past year has definitely taught us about the importance of staying connected with friends and family whenever possible, even if it’s done virtually through Zoom or FaceTime. And, of course, the holidays aren’t any different, as psychologist Dr. Paul B. Greene, Ph.D. advises scheduling chats with loved ones throughout the season. This helps establish a sense of connection with family and friends you won’t be seeing this year.
“Holiday calls can be fatiguing, but they help you stay connected,” he explains. “The more you can be in touch with your loved ones on holidays, the less isolation you’ll feel. This will also help with mood maintenance, and reducing your vulnerability to depression.”
Get creative in the kitchen
“For many people, much of holiday joy comes from food,” Dr. Green says. “Give it a try this year, even if you don’t usually cook. If you can, share the experience with loved ones over video, so it will become a bit of a fun shared experience.”
Take yourself on a date
“As strange as it may sound, take yourself out on a pandemic-friendly date this holiday season,” says Boston-based psychotherapist Angela Ficken, LICSW. “Believe it or not, a simple change in scenery can have positive effects on mood; so read for enjoyment, cook a favorite meal, get takeout at your favorite restaurant, or watch a movie while you take on a 1000-piece puzzle.”
Keep a schedule
While the holidays are definitely about rest and relaxation, Ficken advises keeping some kind of schedule, as it helps keep you focused, and allows you to manage holiday stress and sadness better.
“Think about how you want to structure your day to help manage feelings of sadness and stress,” she explains. “You don’t have to pack your schedule with things, but having a few things to look forward to can help manage challenging emotions likes stress and sadness.”
Limit social media exposure
While social media can help us feel more connected to loved ones, you may want to limit your screen time if you are alone for the holidays, as psychotherapist Tess Brigham, explains that it may trigger feelings of sadness and frustration.
“When you need to feel connected, don’t go on social media,” Brigham tells FabFitFun. “While it’s nice to see family and friends posting pictures, it won’t satisfy you in the way in which you need that feeling of connection.”
Take care of your body
While it’s tempting to have some extra pie and wine if you aren’t home for the holidays this year, clinical psychologist Dr. Brian Wind, PhD, CBSM, advises taking care of yourself through exercise and nutrition, as this can help improve your mood.
“Stick to a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and drink plenty of water, while avoiding excessive alcohol or drug use,” Dr. Wind tells FabFitFun. “Exercising regularly can also improve your mood, and make you feel better, so you can be more resilient towards any sadness or stress you experience during the holiday season.”
Acknowledge your emotions
If you have experienced loss during this year, it’s absolutely normal to allow yourself to grieve, Dr. Wind explains. Though, it’s worth remembering that you don’t have to navigate grief on your own, as he encourages seeking professional help if you need additional support. Doing so, allows you to unpack all the feelings, thoughts, and emotions that can be hard to deal with on your own, under the guidance of a trained professional.
“Take time for yourself to process these emotions by talking to someone you trust, or by journaling,” Dr. Wind advises. “If you need to, seek professional help with a therapist who can help you understand and process your thoughts and feelings.”
xx, The FabFitFun Team