Guest Column: Take care of your mental well-being over holidays


The winter holidays are not always (or maybe ever) picture perfect. Even without being in the middle of a pandemic, Thanksgiving and Chanukah can be a time of stress for most of us. There is pressure to make it great, to spend extra time with family, to stretch our budgets and our patience. 
This is probably the most bizarre holiday season most of us will ever experience.
Many of us are faced with being alone during the holidays. Spending less time swept up in holiday cheer and connection might bring up feelings of loneliness and depression.
If you are spending the holidays alone this year, here are a few tips that can help you emotionally prepare:
Prioritize self-care: I am not talking about taking a bubble bath on Thanksgiving or all eight nights of Chanukah (although that’s a great idea!). Self-care is a continuous effort to fill your cup so you have energy to take care of yourself in your day-to-day life. Ideally, you will have extra energy to carry you through times of stress.

Get enough sleep: As human beings, we struggle to properly regulate our emotions without adequate sleep. So stop binge-watching Netflix at night and try dimming the lights and getting into bed early tonight. Bonus points if you can add a nap into your day.

Pre-plan social activities: A lot of community and family connection time occurs outside of specific holiday meals. Think of creative ways to connect with those you love and care about. Plan for a morning virtual coffee date, a virtual recipe date with a friend (cook the same meal and then eat your dinner virtually together), plan for extra phone calls and FaceTimes. Maybe send a postcard a day to people you love and care about. If you feel comfortable, this would be a good time to set up a few socially distant walks with friends. Have events on your calendar and mix them up. 

Go outside: Yes, it is winter. Yes, it is cold and raining. Yes, you live in the Pacific Northwest and own a rain jacket. If you are feeling down, go outside even if you do not feel like it in the moment. Go outside, breathe in the fresh air. If your body permits it, go for a walk. Let nature act as a reset button. 

Eat your favorite food: Even if you love every single dish of every single holiday, you certainly have ONE absolute favorite. Pick one dish to make or buy for yourself and enjoy that. If it’s pumpkin pie, splurge and buy yourself a super delicious slice at one of the awesome pie shops in town. But pre-plan because everyone else is doing that, too; you don’t want to miss out on that coveted dessert! If you love turkey, get a few pieces and roast them for yourself. Order that ahead of time, too. Or skip holiday food and try a new cuisine. 
Know when to get extra support: If you find yourself feeling substantially depressed, having thoughts that life would be better off without you in it, or if you start planning to harm yourself in any way, reach out for help. The national suicide hotline is available 24/7 and can be reached at 800-273-8255. Or you can go to the nearest emergency room. They have trained professionals to help you get the support you need.

Lindy Ariff, MSW, LCSW, offers convenient, confidential and supportive online psychotherapy. She is on the board of Jewish Family & Child Service and is a member of Congregation Beth Israel.


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