With Thanksgiving around the corner, we at NAMI Urban Los Angeles (NULA) want to share some mental health self-care tips taken with our knowledge with support from NAMI National, Psych Central, The Mighty, and Marguerite Ferrera, NULA Social Media Coordinator. We know that the holidays are not always cheery and fun for everyone. For many it can bring up loneliness, depression, and often includes processing grief and loss. This is often a painful time and can lead to feelings of depressed mood and low self-esteem. Sometimes anger may arise because of challenges with family or loved ones you are obligated to see where conflicts may present. Below are a few tips to help you take good care in the best way you can during this holiday season. We too hope it is filled with moments of joy, peace, and rest.
- Physical symptoms which may include headaches, muscle tension, shortness of breath, fatigue, appetite changes and difficulties in sleep patterns.
- Difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating.
- Speaking negatively towards yourself.
- Emotional responses may manifest to feeling out of control, nervous, anxious, hopeless or angry.
- Negative changes in behavior can include aggression, exorbitant use of substances, and other compulsive behaviors.
10 Self-Care Tips for the Holidays
Remember to show yourself gratitude for the things you DO have in your life. Whether that be a job, a partner, friends, family, or your health, give thanks for those things. Showing gratitude can mean creating positive mantras, writing positive post-it notes with the things you are thankful for, blogging about it, journaling or simply saying it out loud. While life is not perfect and never will be, having a gratitude can support your well being.
2) Rest and Slow Down
The holidays are often the busiest time of the year and it takes being intentional about operating in a slow pace. Adjust plans if needed and be okay to say NO or decline an invite. Instead of committing to something right away, check in with yourself alone and take a few moments to decide. Don’t be afraid to cancel plans and remove activities off of the schedule to feel more balanced this season. Small rituals can also help us slow down, going that may include journaling, going outside in nature, meditating, or prayer for example. Staying hydrated and eating nutritious foods will also elevate your mood. Plan for more time to prepare for your nightly routine to destress and process.
3) Create a Self-Care Toolkit
Make a list of your go-to tools for self-care that’s easily accessible - on your phone, in a small journal, or on post its on your bathroom mirror. Schedule activities that are relaxing or restorative for you as a source of prevention of a crisis. Click here to see a list of possible self-care activities you may want to try - https://psych2go.net/101-self-care-ideas. Get creative and have fun. You’ll see from this list that self-care does not have to cost money, there are many things you can do at home like to cook, bake, watch a show, paint your nails, read a good book, go for a walk, listen to music and more.
4) Get Restful Exercise
Aim for exercise that may include walking, cardio, weight training, resistance bands. 150 minutes of exercise per week is correlated as equal or greater to the strength of an antidepressant. Exercise improves mood and supports positive well being. Consult with your health care physician if you are unsure of what exercise is right for you.
5) Take Your Medication
If you are taking medication prescribed by your medical doctor which may include a primary care physician or psychiatrist, please do not stop taking your medications. During the holidays, it is more critical that you remain med compliant. If you are unsure about taking a medication, please consult your doctor if you have access to one.
6) Learn From The Past
Think about the holidays before and ask the following: what were the most difficult parts? What was the most draining or exhausting? What issues played a role in the conflicts and challenges that arose? Take some time to journal or speak with your therapist if you have one on what people, situations, comments, emotions or behaviors are triggering for you. Make a plan on how to deal with those triggers if they arise again.
7) Feel and Manage Your Emotions & Grief
With Thanksgiving focused on giving thanks and celebrating thankful times, it can feel easy to feel sad, angry or lonely. There may have been people who you love who are not around because of a loss of friendship, a break up from a previous romantic partner, or the physical death of a loved one. Observe and sit with your feelings and find healthy ways to express them. Give yourself the space to grieve the relationships you once had. Creating a ritual around those who aren’t present in your life anymore can honor the experiences you had with them. This may include lighting a candle, making toast or visiting their grave. Allow yourself to feel the loss.
8) Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries is important to do in any relationship. You have the right to feel respected, valued, and safe (emotionally and physically) at all times. While you can’t control the actions or emotions of others, you can control how you show up and respond. If you have family members or ones who have in the past hurt or abused you in any way, boundaries are critical. Boundaries are how you express what is acceptable to you when relating to you and what is not. First identify the family members who cause you difficulty and limit how much time you spend with them. The purpose of boundaries to promote positive and healthy interactions. There are things that are beyond our control so if you need to remove yourself from a situation, do so. Be kind and compassionate with yourself as you try out new skills.
Below are some examples of things you can share to establish boundaries with a loved one:
“It hurts my feelings when you say that. Please don’t make comments about my clothes or body.”
“I understand you have concerns about my career choice, but it’s hurtful to continue to hear your criticism. I want to spend quality time together, but I need you to keep your concerns to yourself.”
“I’m not comfortable being around you when you drink, but I’d love to get together without alcohol.”
9) Have An Escape or Exit Plan
If you know you are going to a family event that may have the potential to trigger you, consider developing a plan of what you will do to remove yourself from the situation. Allow yourself ahead of time to end a conversation, take a break or exit a room or situation if needed. This is all part of maintaining healthy boundaries.
10) Seek Support
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a trusted friend or loved one about what you might encounter during the holidays and how they can help. Consult with your therapist or psychiatrist if you have one regarding your holiday self-care plan. Call a talk line such a warmline, crisis line, or helpline to seek support in the moment if you need immediate support. Share your self-care plans with trusted loved ones and have a text or call buddy if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Join a facebook support group if you find one that works for you. Remember, you are not alone and there is help available!
Marguerite Ferrera is a Musical Artist, Reiki Practitioner, Wellness Advocate, and Founder of Freedom and Soul Healing, an organization that uses the arts as activism to promote positive mental wellness through a holistic healing lens. To learn more, visit her website at http://freedomandsoulhealing.com.