“It’s the most wonderful time of year, right? So, why am I feeling so miserable?”
It’s true: The holiday blues are all too real for some of us, says MetroHealth Psychologist Sheerli Ratner, PhD.
“It’s perfectly normal to feel a range of emotions throughout the holidays – even frustration, sadness or anxiety,” Dr. Ratner says. “But there are strategies we can use to ensure we’re putting our best selves forward.”
While it’s important to take care of your mental health year-round, the holidays, in particular, can trigger uncomfortable feelings for many of us. It might be the sadness of missing a loved one during family gatherings or the stress brought on by never-ending to-do lists.
It could even be the gloomy weather we’re all too familiar with in Northeast Ohio. Shorter days and considerably less sunshine can impact our mood.
So, what can we do about it? Self-care.
“Self-care during the holidays must be part of the mindset because we cannot give what we don’t have,” Dr. Ratner says. “If you want to give the best of yourself during the holiday, you have to be sure the best of you is there. The best way to do that is through self-care.
For Dr. Ratner, self-care falls into three areas: mind, body and spirit.
One of the best ways to maintain your mental health is through mindfulness – the practice of clearing your mind and being present in the moment. There are plenty of apps available that offer guided meditations and breathing exercises – many that take only a few minutes to complete. It’s important, Dr. Ratner says, to practice mindfulness even when you aren’t feeling overwhelmed. That will help train your mind and give you the tools to cope during challenging situations.
One simple way is to take a series of deep, intentional breaths – in through the nose, out through the mouth.
“Think of it as a mental realignment or adjustment,” Dr. Ratner says. “In just a few minutes, you can realign your mind and become reenergized, helping you become as productive as possible.”
Get moving! Don’t ignore your physical health over the holidays. Even taking a few 10-minute walks every day can improve how you feel. As challenging as it may be this time of year, it’s also important to get enough sleep, eat healthy food and limit your alcohol intake.
Spirituality means different things to different people. For some, it might be the practice of religion or belief in a higher power. For others, it could mean understanding your own purpose and meaning – something that can be incredibly important in times of emotional distress,
“When we learn to understand, control and discipline our own selves, we can do a much better job managing everything else that unfolds in the world out there,” Dr. Ratner says. “To me, that’s what spirituality is.”