4 Coping Strategies for the Holidays
The holidays can be a challenging time. This year has added several additional complications and struggles like isolation, sickness, death, job loss or financial struggle, and
racial injustice, to name a few. Many of us face mental health challenges such as anxiety, loss of interest, loneliness, grief, and more as a result. Below is a list of 4 coping strategies for you to consider throughout the challenging winter months, especially during our socially distant Holidays.
With the days getting shorter, darker, and colder, it is harder to get ourselves out of bed or off of the couch. Holistic health helps with mental health - get yourself up and moving. Whether this is taking a walk outside or doing an at-home workout, finding a way to add movement today can help your mental state. Adding this into your day will get your heart pumping, your endorphins moving, and help improve your ability to focus throughout the day. Incorporating movement into your day is a small change. We have all heard that getting 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week is recommended. I was encouraged by an article in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry notes that it does not have to be 30 minutes all at once (Shama, Madaan, & Petty, 2006). Do whatever you can fit into your day!
Connect with others
Connection is not coming as readily as it was before. As the temperatures drop, it becomes more difficult. Still, I have found myself being so grateful that we are going through this pandemic in the age of technology! We were created for community, so we have an innate need to have meaningful connections with others. While these holidays may look different from others than we have had before, and connection may not be present, we would prefer technology to help us. Set coffee dates, video calls, and game nights with friends and family. Reach out to a friend or acquaintance and go on a socially distant walk. Find and schedule opportunities to connect and use technology to your advantage.
Anxiety has a way of keeping us either sitting in the past, worrying about things that have already happened, or focusing on the future and figuring out what will happen or how things will play out. Our brains think if we sit there long enough, we’ll be able to work something out when, in reality, we’re just amplifying the anxiety. Practicing mindfulness helps reorient ourselves to the present. We can acknowledge that these thoughts by saying to ourselves, “I know you’re here, but I’m not going to let you take hold of me.” Below are a few quick ways to practice mindfulness and get yourself back into the present and slow down your brain and your body when you’re experiencing anxious feelings:
4x4x4x4 Breathing: Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, do this for 4 minutes
The 5 Senses: Name five things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste
Practicing Gratitude: Write down 5 things you are grateful for. When you are thinking of these positive things you are grateful for, your mind cannot be thinking about the thoughts that are making you anxious or your negative circumstances.
Quiet time/Journaling: Spend time getting your thoughts and feelings out on paper. If spirituality is important to you, spending time focused on your spiritual connection can help get you centered and present.
Validate and Acknowledge Your Feelings
It’s important to know that whatever you’re feeling and however it is showing up for you is valid. Especially in a time like this, it is. To validate your feelings does not mean that you dwell on them, but rather that you honor the way you feel and get in touch with the way you feel. It is natural to compare what you’re experiencing to others and put it on a scale. Sometimes perspective is helpful, but other times it minimizes what you are actually experiencing. On some level, each of us is experiencing loss to some degree during this time. It is important to acknowledge those feelings, give the feelings a name, and maybe even write them down. We can honor these feelings while still recognizing them as something we are experiencing, not our identity.
Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F.D. (2006). Exercise for Mental Health. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 8(2),106. doi: 10.4088/pcc.v08n0208a
BIO: Lauren Yuccas is a graduate student and counseling Intern at the Moody Theological Seminary Counseling Center. Lauren counsels individuals and couples, focusing on areas such as anxiety and depression, grief, trauma, and career. She seeks to create a safe and collaborative space where clients can be heard and achieve holistic growth.
When she is not at the counseling center her favorite place to be in cozied up on the couch with her husband and puppy, Penny, watching any bingeable series. She also loves finding new, fun coffee shops in the city and sharing a cup of coffee with friends.