The holidays are ideal for spending time with family and friends and are seen as a joyous time of year. However, anxiety and depression are also especially common during the holidays, since planning trips, buying gifts and hosting get-togethers can be significantly stressful. Here are some ways to keep your mental health intact as you celebrate with the ones you love this holiday season.

Spend Time in the Sun

Going outside more often can help reduce symptoms of depression. Even though it’s usually colder outside during the holiday season(s), being exposed to the sun will provide your body with more vitamin D, which helps to regulate your mood. The vitamin also assists the body in properly absorbing calcium, which strengthens your bones and muscles. Getting more sun exposure helps to boost your immune system as well; during the fall and winter, you’re more likely to get colds, so spending time outdoors can keep you from getting sick. Your brain and nervous systems also work better when you’re getting more vitamin D. If you live in an area that doesn’t get much sunlight during the holidays, purchase a high-quality vitamin D supplement to take daily.

Reduce Your Commitments

You can reduce your anxiety and avoid the depression that can come from not meeting other people’s expectations if you avoid over-committing. During this time of year, there are often parties, family dinners and gift exchanges. The holidays are often a time when companies, churches and nonprofit organizations organize food and toy drives to assist the community. You may be called on to organize an event, prepare food or drinks, buy presents or create a guest list. Think about the events that are most important to you or the activities you enjoy the most. Consider your work or school schedule and family obligations. Say “yes” to commitments based on these factors. Don’t let people pressure you into creating a schedule that is overwhelming for you. You’re much more likely to enjoy the holidays if you don’t allow people to affect your mental health by putting more on you than you can handle. Don’t feel guilty that you can’t say “yes” to everything. The holidays are a great time to set boundaries and take control of your time, so that other people will do the same.

Schedule Therapy Sessions

Before your holiday schedule gets too busy, book a therapy or counseling session. This is especially helpful if you experienced considerable stress during the holidays last year and want to make sure you avoid the same stresses again. Talk to your therapist about family members or friends who are particularly demanding or inconsiderate, especially when the holidays come around. Your counselor can provide you with tools and tips for effectively interacting with these individuals throughout the year to make the holidays a pleasant time of year for you.

Plan Ahead

Try to plan ahead physically, mentally and emotionally this holiday season to avoid stress. Start planning at least a month in advance if you and your family will be traveling or hosting guests. Schedule time for massages or spa dates during and after the holiday season to help you relax — remember that these are priorities as well. Prepare yourself mentally for the fact that you may encounter difficult relatives at a holiday party this year. Let your close friends or family members know ahead of time that you want to avoid conflict this year and will leave the event if necessary. Most of all, plan to have a great holiday season. Be intentional about the activities you’ll participate in or the memories you want to create and put your effort toward making the holidays enjoyable and beneficial for you.



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