Chicago Mental Health Experts Outline 7 Ways to Attain Balance for Improved Mental Health Throughout the Holiday Season

Compass Health Center offers seven ways to improve mental health this season.

7 Ways to Attain Balance for Improved Mental Health Throughout the Holiday Season

A recent scientific brief released by the World Health Organization found that during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a monumental 25%. Over the past few years, holidays have looked different due to social distancing restrictions and safety guidelines. As we continue to emerge from the pandemic together, the excitement about being able to resume more of our holiday and family traditions may be coupled with stressors related to holiday travel, larger in-person social events, and a desire to make up for lost time. This is further intensified by other seasonal stressors at work or school, in social circles, and within ourselves. Anna Finis, PsyD, Director of Child and Young Child IOP at Compass Health Center - Chicago, explains, "going into the holiday season, where we may find ourselves pulled in various directions, we have an opportunity to evaluate our priorities and fill our time intentionally. Balance, in general, is not how we add to our day, but instead how we are more intentional with our time." 

7 Ways to Attain Balance for Improved Mental Health Throughout the Holiday Season:

  1. Manage Expectations & Set Boundaries - The holidays can be rife with "hot button topics" which can easily snowball into serious disagreements leading to increased stress, anxiety, and harmful thought patterns. Boundaries should be set that honor the values of the individual setting them. It is restorative and empowering to set boundaries, even when others are not aligned with them.
  2. Engage in Mindfulness - Finding a mindfulness practice that is realistic and practical for the time and energy you have is key. Do not be discouraged if you find mindfulness not intuitive at first; it takes practice. Mindfulness allows us to focus on the now when the stressors of what's to come become too much.
  3. Align your activities and priorities with your key values - Values guide us by creating a sense of meaning and direction in our lives. Intentionally aligning your holiday traditions and priorities with your values helps you make confident and meaningful choices and reduces the potential for increased anxiety and second-guessing.
  4. Practice Self-Compassion - It is easy to engage in negative self-talk when feeling overwhelmed; feelings of guilt, shame, and blame are not uncommon, and this cycle takes a toll on our mental wellness. Practicing self-compassion means giving ourselves the space and grace to make mistakes, seek out rest, and look for ways to incorporate self-care into our routines.
  5. Disconnect - There are pros and cons to living in a 24/7 world. While it is wonderful to have the world at your fingertips, constantly seeing a slew of news, updates, emails, texts, and work requests can become overwhelming. Both your brain and body need rest. Once a week (or more!), shut off all devices and disconnect. Start with an hour and use that time to just be in the moment or practice your mindfulness.
  6. Practice SEEDS - SEEDS is an acronym used in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) that stands for: Sleep, Eating, Exercise, Doctor, and Self-Care/Sobriety. Practicing SEEDS begins with checking in with yourself about how you are doing or feeling to help you understand why you are feeling that way. For example: Have you eaten and are you eating in a way that is nutritious? Have you moved your body today and did you get enough sleep last night? Did you remember to take the medications prescribed by your doctor? If the answer to any of these questions is "no," SEEDS can guide you in planning to get back on track and change how you are feeling.
  7. Ask for Help - Speaking to a mental health professional is a safe, realistic option and seeking support can provide you with a compassionate place to open up about your concerns or learn evidenced-based skills to help manage intense emotions.

"The holiday season can feel like a juggling act that is made evermore exhausting by the demands of work, planned meals with extended family, and the expectations of gift-giving. All too often, the holidays are overshadowed by intense stress and feeling overwhelmed. Prioritizing our mental health and well-being, which takes a bit of effort, is within reach by taking just a few small steps over the weeks and months ahead." said Katherine Early, LMSW, Group Therapist, Compass Virtual.

Protecting our mental health is not selfish or shameful; our emotions are valid and can tell us that our needs may be unmet. Seek professional behavioral health support if symptoms last longer than two weeks or affect your daily life.

Source: Compass Health Center