Using Mindfulness to Get Through the Holiday Season

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The holidays can be an exciting time to catch up with loved ones and take a much-needed step back from hectic schedules and busy lives. But the celebratory season is also a period in which many experience depression and anxiety.

Whenever possible, those dealing with mental illness should always seek professional help. People are also turning to mindfulness practices such as meditation to help manage depression and anxiety, either in tandem with therapy and prescription medication or as an alternative to drug treatment.

Find the holidays too stressful? Here's a great way to lessen the burden on your mental health. Click To Tweet

Below, learn more about how you can use mindfulness to lessen anxiety and depression as you enter the holiday season.

Why Mindfulness

Mindfulness practices have been shown to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety. They are cheap — often free — tools available to large swaths of the approximately 40 million American adults with mental illness, and can be incorporated into daily life.

mindfulness during the holidays

Regardless of financial or geographic circumstance, you can practice combating anxiety with mindfulness tools like living in the present, refraining from analyzing a situation, and searching for beauty in even life’s tougher moments.

Reasons Behind Holiday Depression

According to Psychology Today, there could be a variety of triggers behind your holiday depression. Some people struggle spending forced time with difficult family members. Others feel financial pressure due to the myriad costs associated with buying gifts or hosting events.

The holidays disrupt routine patterns and, as the Mayo Clinic notes, leave people with lists of effortful tasks that can include booking and navigating travel and finding proper outfits, decorations, and presents.

Psychology Today also notes that the holiday months can invite people to think about their accomplishments in comparison to others, and potentially face feelings of unhappiness with their current life trajectories. For those who have recently suffered a loss, it can be a particularly isolating time.

Importance of Minimizing Stress

Stress and anxiety aren’t merely inconveniences. The heightened state that stress triggers — often referred to as a flight-or-fight response — can majorly disrupt body operations and lead to a variety of serious health issues.

According to the American Psychological Association, the emotional disruptions associated with even short-term stressful experiences can instigate heart attacks, particularly for those already dealing with a condition such as heart disease. The Association notes that chronically stressful conditions can be particularly harmful, increasing risks for cardiovascular issues and recovery from illnesses.

Mindfulness Tips for Right Now

If you are someone who experiences stress, anxiety or depression around the holidays, there are ways you can begin to incorporate mindfulness techniques into your life right now.

One way is by doing mindfulness meditations, which you can practice even without leaving the comforts of your home. The online MSW program at the University of Southern California, for example, created a toolkit of mindful living resources which offers guided video meditations to increase calmness, promote trauma recovery, and connect to feelings of gratitude.

Combat holiday depression & anxiety by taking solitary breaks from family or celebrations. Click To Tweet

The Mayo Clinic recommends combating holiday depression and anxiety by taking solitary breaks from family or celebrations to center yourself with a walk in nature, massage or any other activity that allows you to reset stress levels. The Mayo Clinic also recommends volunteering, which can help you and also provide vital resources and services to others in need.

If you’re not someone who experiences mental illness, Psychology Today points out that the holiday season is a great time to reach out to support those who do.

Continuing Your Practice in 2018

Mindfulness is a great tool around the holidays, but can also be incorporated into life throughout the year to manage mental health symptoms.

As you approach the new year, you consider starting your day with a guided meditation video or series of yoga poses, for example.

If you started volunteering with an organization over the holidays, reach out to those in charge and see if there are ways you could be useful in a long-term role.

You can also delve deeper into mindfulness by learning more about the practice itself. This list of 15 books on mindfulness and meditation is great reading material to increase awareness of how to connect to your authentic self, decrease anxiety and depression levels, and live a present and happy life.

Even when the holidays are long past, you can reap the benefits of approaching life with the understanding that you’re not in total control. Click To Tweet

Even when the holidays are long past, you can reap the benefits of approaching life with the understanding that you’re not in total control.

If you’re someone lucky enough to not struggle with depression who supported others through difficult holiday times, you can continue to be a resource for those in need. 

Mental illness — during the holidays or otherwise — can be challenging. If you’re struggling, reach out for professional mental health treatment, and try incorporating mindfulness practices to help reduce anxiety and depression.

This post was written by Colleen O’Day, a Marketing Manager and supports community outreach for 2U Inc.’s social work, mental health, and speech pathology programs. Find her on Twitter @ColleenMODay.

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