10 Days of Holiday Mental Health Wellness

10th Commandment: Thou Shalt DOMINATE STRESS

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Stress is an unavoidable part of life. It can certainly keep things interesting, that’s for sure, but like, not always in a good way. The holidays can bring out acute times of stress but there are also many joyful moments to take part of and you won’t appreciate them if you are a stress ball so here are a few Do’s and Don’ts for dealing with stress during the holidays so that you may remember to be dazzled by those snowflakes instead of groaning about shoveling.

  • · Do practice mindfulness before that family Christmas dinner if you are feeling anxious about it. A few deep breaths before walking through that door can literally decrease the intensity of your annoyance at Aunt Karen’s comments on your looks.
  • · Don’t overcommit. It will inevitably lead to too much stress. Carve an evening out alone between the work party and brunch with friends. Recharging that battery is what will keep you going during all those festivities. Remember, FOMO be damned! You know that will mean practicing saying NO right?
  • · Do remember the Triple Threat of healthy habits: exercising, eating well and sleeping enough. It’s a fantastic way of managing stress. And let’s face it, help with the sluggishness of the excess of the holidays.
  • · Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off any of the proverbial wagons. We don’t judge ourselves. There are enough people doing that! It’s just a matter of switching your mindset and getting back on track.
  • · Do partake in any and all forms of relaxation required to get you through the what can sometimes feel like steroid induced time of year (bubble baths, drinking tea by the fire, reading a book, journaling, doodling, walking in nature, yoga, meditating, going to the movies, cleaning your apartment (seriously!) – and do activities solo and with others.

Despite our best intentions, sometimes we feel that we are not slayin’ stress. So, dealing with it means doing things to soothe our body and mind. Big or small things work. Just find what helps YOU!

9th Commandment: Thou Shalt BE YOUR OWN CHEERLEADER

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The holiday season, as we all know, is full of magic and joy…and stress and overwhelming situations. It’s a time of year where emotions can be wrought and we need some extra TLC.  That extra support can come from many wonderful people but ultimately, it should, and can, also come from ourselves. If we aren’t comfortable with it, we really need to work on becoming our own cheerleader.

So how does that translate into getting through the rougher parts of the holidays? Well, this self-care strategy is all about positive self-talk, also known as positive affirmations. Think Stuart Smalley, the awesome Saturday Night Live (SNL) character (google him if you don’t know who he is!). “I'm good  enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me." If encouraging yourself like that seems too hard, here are a few things you can do to boost this self-care skill:

  • Learn a new skill, work hard and get good at it (mastering something builds our confidence)
  • Put Post-It notes everywhere with cheer-worthy quotes (“I have a great knack for choosing meaningful gifts”, “I am loyal to my family and friends, “I am an independent woman damnit and don’t need a man to kiss under the mistletoe”, “I will not let uncle Bob’s comments ruin my whole Christmas dinner”.
  • Practice saying these things out loud. It helps, once you get past the awkwardness. If you have a pet, say it to them…(wink emoji).
  • Take to journaling, but in a specific way, where you have to write about your qualities, self-worth, things you are good at, etc. (You can find great journals like that in book stores).
  • Change the way you receive a compliment. You know, as in, actually accept it (when someone says: “Love your gift wrapping skills” you don’t reply “Ah, they are not that great”. You answer “Thanks!”. That’s it. Full sentence.)
  • As hard as it is, shut down the judgy voice in your head. Remember, self-love and self-compassion will get you closer to mental wellness. So when that voice pops up, distract yourself with an affirmation and/or practice self-care.
  • Do something for someone. Honestly, there is no better way to get out of one’s head than to give back and help somebody else (take your nephew sledding – you both will have fun and your sister can get some shopping done…or napping. We don’t judge). If you are feeling lonely or are alone during the season, help out at a soup kitchen, hospital, etc. 

These are a few suggestions to get you started on your journey to becoming your own cheerleader. Again, this is not an easy self-care skill. It takes time and practice and a whole lotta gumption. You’ve got this!

8th Commandment: Thou Shalt BE GRATEFUL...DAILY

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Ongoing gratitude practices will help you to let go of the ‘poor me’ self-pity party and work your way into amazing personal transformation of gratefulness. Want to be satisfied with the life you have? Just start by being thankful for what you ALREADY have. Sounds a little too “Everything is Awesome” (Lego movie..it’s hilarious)? Well it’s not. Because being grateful on a consistent basis can improve your physical and psychological strength, help you to have better relationships, improve your sleep, it will enhance your compassion towards others, reduce your aggression, improve your self-esteem and make you more resilient to all the challenges that life can throw your way. 

So this holidays season, be grateful for:

  • A full house of little voices that you      know will wake you up at the crack of dawn after you’ve been up until an      ungodly hour wrapping gifts
  • A partner who although may not have done a      stitch to get stuff ready for Christmas, loves and adores you
  • Friends who keep you waiting at a      restaurant for a holidays lunch only to surprise you with a spa day gift      because they know you’ve been running yourself ragged
  • Co-workers who annoy you AF during      do-nothing meetings yet pitch in to help you get it all done so you can      take off for the holidays
  • Relatives who you know will drink a bit      too much and start an inappropriate political discussion at your holiday      dinner but that you know are the glue that binds your family together      because they are all heart (even though it may not seem like it at the      time).

Did you see what just happened there? We took a not so pleasant situation and chose to see the good in it. If nothing else, gratitude may help you develop a more positive outlook on life. Cliché but true: glass half full. No need to thank us…or maybe you should…to get the ball rolling that is. 

7th Commandment: Thou Shalt NOT LET PEOPLE WALK ALL OVER YOU

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We want to take care of ourselves and learn healthy ways of setting limits during the holiday season, where boundaries are somewhat a tad more precarious than usual, right? Here are some survival tips...

  • If you are traveling for the holidays and are cringing/panicking at the idea of staying at someone’s house, book a hotel or Airbnb (and accept that you will peeve off someone).
  • If you are staying with family during the holidays (or if they are staying with you), make sure you carve out solo time to not go batsh*t (go for an extra-long errand to the grocery store, take an extra-long walk with the dog, wake up earlier to have a quiet cup of coffee and meditate, insist on your workouts).
  • If you are surrounded for long stretches with people, have some kind of game plan in terms of fun stuff to do. It can be a game changer. (Pun fully intended)
  • If you have to spend time with people you’d rather not, remember you can walk away from a toxic conversation (“I need to get some water”...and just pretend to get distracted with something or someone else), tell the host you don’t want to sit beside a particular person and stay only as long as you feel you can manage.
  • Take deep breaths! It’s a powerful, under-utilized tool to get through stupid comments. And have a mantra “This too shall pass”, “I’ve got this”, “Water off my back”, like whatever you need to say to yourself and just rinse and repeat.
  • DO NOT go to bed at 3 am for any of the following reasons: Christmas card writing, cookie baking, gift wrapping (gift bag anyone?), house decorating…unless you are working the night shift OR it’s part of your duties 😉 (Santa you aren’t off the hook, sorry). Sleep is more important than any of that crap. For real.
  • Realize you can’t change people’s behaviours or beliefs so just don’t try (don’t engage with uncle Bob and his political views, don’t comment on your sister’s husband’s brother’s drinking habits…basically do what you need to do keep drama at arm’s length).
  • Feeling a little frazzled with the to do list? Delegate. Like a lot. Get your spouse, your kids, your parents, siblings, in-laws, the mayor for all we care and SHARE THE LOAD OF THE HOLIDAY TASKS. No shame in that! 
  • Recognize that your kids may be a tad overstimulated and possibly misbehaving (can you see me raising my hand?!). Carve quiet time for them, too (board games, movie night, skating, sledding, whatever they like).
  • · Focus on what’s amazing around you right now. This is harder to do when we are feeling like nothing is going right but believe us, it can truly help you switch your focus and eliminate the stress ball in your stomach (focus on your aunt Bee’s delicious apple turkey stuffing, your cousin’s wicked sense of humour at the dinner table, your co-worker who is super into decorating her office and brings joy to work, your friend’s ability to always get the most thoughtful gift, your barista you smiles at your every morning when you pick up your latte).There are small moments everywhere if we open our eyes!

And remember, like we said in the our Beating the Holiday Blah’s video (link in bio), if all else fails just go to the bathroom and hide (temporarily), seriously. It’s as good a place as any to escape and regroup. We are all human and sometimes sh*it can’t be avoided…just survived. When you get home, journal about it, give yourself a high five and sing Beyoncé’s song “I’m a Survivor”!

6th Commandment: Thou Shalt PUMP THE BREAKS ON ALCOHOL & DRUGS

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  The holidays are an amazing opportunity to get together with family, friends and coworkers to celebrate and raise a glass or two. The overload of opportunities to do this, however, may be a challenge for those of us that may tend to over imbibe or are in a tender state of mind. No news flash here that drugs and alcohol can have an altering effect to your mood and not in a good way. Depression and anxiety are a crappy side effect of them. But luckily we have lots of strategies below to help you manage:

  • Eat food before drinking - At the very least have a snack before you go to      the party or out to dinner. With no food in your belly, the buzz will set on quicker and with-it poor decision making. 
  • Stick to a pre-set limit of alcohol before you start your night - Decide on      how much you want to drink before you go out (two drinks the entire      night?, one drink per hour?). Setting these parameters for yourself with keep you accountable and more successful at your goal.
  • Don’t down drinks too quickly – Take your time and sip your bevvy to make it last. This will help you manage your buzz and will help keep you from over drinking.
  • Order half-strength beverages – Ask the bartender to take it easy on your drinks or just add a splash of alcohol to your mix if you are making your      own drinks.
  • Go with the 1:1 alcohol/water option – One glass of water for every alcoholic drink. It will keep you hydrated and slow down your buzz.
  • Resist peer pressure to drink – Stay away from drinking games and the party leaders that are all over them. Put yourself in the right mindset to say      no or better yet avoid them. Choose clear liquid alcoholic beverages and      mixers to trick the excessively aggressive peer pressure gang or the busy bodies wondering if you are drinking or not. 
  • Offer to be the DD – Boring! (is what you are thinking) But if you know you  are susceptible to overindulging, then this may be a great option to go with (ok, maybe not for every party). And your friends will appreciate it!
  • Hang with the people not drinking – You can have just as great time with      these folks without having them falling down drunk on you.
  • Have an early morning activity in your schedule for the morning after the party – You won’t want to feel like a bag of nails if you are going for a workout or have a morning breakfast date, which will help you to take it easy on the bevvies.

Now that we have some strategies in place, we can enjoy the holiday season while still practicing self-care. It’s a win/win!

5th Commandment: Thou Shalt GET OUT AND SEE HUMANS

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We all know how great we feel after a good evening out with friends.  Human contact increases our wellbeing. Maintaining our social media relations and catching up with people via Facetime is great but we also have to make sure we are getting ourselves out there and seeing people in real life.

Socializing doesn’t come easy for everyone, however, and you may want to have a better social network but not quite know how to go about growing it.  It seemed easier to make friends when we were kids, didn’t it? But given the amazing self-care benefits of this commandment, we owe it ourselves to bust out of our comfort zone and get out there. Fear of rejection be damned!

Here are a few ideas to help you get the heck out there and mingle:

  • Join an activity at a community centre - Anything you’d be remotely interested in.
  • Join a sport you’ve been wanting to try - You may be pleasantly surprised!
  • Make plans and invite people out - Coffee, dinner, a show, the options are endless!
  • Do volunteer work - Pick a place, animal shelter, soup kitchen, hospital, library, just to name a few (it will fill you with gratitude and feel-good feels, AND you will meet other like-minded people!).
  • Actually accept invitations from others - It’s all good to enjoy some downtime at home (it’s essential in fact) but when was the last time you met colleagues after work or reached out to your neighbor for a drink?

Does some of this sound painful to accomplish? For sure. Did we say the 10 Commandments of Wellness would be easy? Nope! True growth and wellbeing come from pushing ourselves. And knowing in advance that we may be rejected and accepting that, makes it less personal and easier to deal with. It goes without saying that keeping strong connections with our current friends is vital, too. Be a good friend. Make yourself available, check in with them, show an interest in their lives and you will feel that glow in your heart. If you want to socialize more but are not sure how, there are great books out there on social skills that can give you some pointers. And remember, we don’t need a massive posse of people (quality over quantity!)…just  a few people we connect with works wonders for our mental health. 

4th Commandment: Thou Shalt BE MINDFUL

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Mindfulness creates changes in the brain that allow you to stay calmer, slow down your thoughts, let go of stress, deeply relax, sleep better, increase memory and deal better with chronic pain. Who can’t use some of that during the holidays?! Mindfulness gives you an opportunity to be in the present moment and thinking of the right now. This IS the mind’s healthiest place to be! And this is how you can take yourself there (with some gentle assistance from YouTube and other amazing apps of course!):

  •  Breathing - You know we mean more than the way you breathe to survive. Focus on EVERY breath. There are different kinds (alternate nostril breathing, deep breathing, etc.) so read up on it, it’s worth it.
  • Body Scanning - This is exactly what it sounds like: Mentally scan every part of your body and become more aware of it.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation – Tighten, hold and then release each muscle individually. When done right, this is bliss!
  • Guided Imagery – Use positive and soothing scenarios and images to calm you right down.
  • Yoga - Lots of different types of classes you can take at a studio or online. 

We hope you have been inspired to give mindfulness a try. These are just a few types of mindfulness exercises to try. Do yourself a favor though and don’t jump into hour long mediations in the beginning. Slow and steady tiger. Small time increments at first and build up as you become more comfortable. It truly is a helpful tool (centuries old!) for keeping your mental health in check and building self-awareness. And the greater our awareness, the more we are able to acknowledge the good, the bad and the ugly thoughts, feelings and behaviors that we just looove to shove deep down the abyss. Because who want to feel uncomfortable? And that bottling up has the potential to make us feel more anxious and keep us depressed. So, personal challenge being send your way to hone that mediating skill and build your mental health resiliency.  May the force be with you.

3rd Commandment: Thou Shalt GET MOVING

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Below is a diversely comprised list of ways to start pumping those well-needed endorphins to get you through the holiday season (as well as life in general!). It may seem very daunting  but for maximum benefits of this commandment, you have to be active EVERY DAY.      

  • Do workout videos at home (PopSugar Fitness and Tone It Up, just to name a few, have fantastic videos on YouTube of various lengths…Renee rocks these!) 
  • Join a mommy and baby yoga class
  • Take a brisk walk while listening to a podcast/audiobook/music  
  • Join a gym enjoy weights, fitness classes or personal trainers (this is the stuff that’s totally up Kristina’s alley) 
  • Start a running club and make, or rather encourage, your friends to join 
  • Put the music on really loud (or use headphones)  and dance like the chick in the movie Flashdance.
  • Kickbox, swim, horseback ride, cycle, skate,  play hockey, basketball, golf, tennis, squash, and the list goes on and on and on…   

The idea is to infuse some well needed movement into our lives. You can go as hard core (CrossFit anyone?) or leisurely (hiking an easy trail).  You do you boo, it’s that simple. Just challenge  yourself to take care of you. Let’s hold each other accountable and remind ourselves that we are committing to our well-being (it’s about the long game peeps!).

2nd Commandment: Thou Shalt GET ENOUGH SLEEP

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Strategies that you can put in place to help you get a few extra zzz's, leaving you less vulnerable to emotional elements:

  • Start off by having a good sleep routine: limit caffeine during the day (and stop java/tea intake in the afternoon), dim lights in the evening (including on your device), no screens an hour before bed, same bedtime every day (even weekends if you are struggling with sleep), etc.
  • Talk to your doctor about a sleep test to see if there are medical issues preventing you from sleeping (sleep apnea, hormone imbalance, etc.).
  • If anxiety/stress is keeping you up, then we encourage a mindfulness practice before bed. There are a ton of apps (many are free) and YouTube videos on meditation for sleep. They can also be helpful for middle of the night or early morning insomnia.
  • Therapy can help if you are struggling with getting shut eye. Specifically, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) for sleep is available to you to explore.

These are just a few examples of how to get better/longer sleep. Keep in mind that it’s ok to go to bed instead of going to yet another social outing. FOMO be damned because, self-care right?! Happy sleeping everyone!

1st Commandment: Thou Shalt EAT WELL

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A few tips to help with healthy food:

  • Choose whole foods instead of processed (fresh fish instead of frozen fried fish fingers)
  • Find ways to add veggies in ALL meals (spinach in smoothies, salad at lunch, roasted veggies with dinner)
  • Choose complex carbs (brown rice over white rice, whole wheat bread instead of white bread)
  • Pick healthy fats (avocados, olive oil – not butter)
  • It’s time to SAY NO to crazy sugary juices
  • Don’t skip meals (when we are hungry we make poor choices)
  • Cook more often at home (we get it, restaurant food tastes amazing but it’s hard to stay on a heathy track when dining out too often)
  • Make part of your weekends about meal prep (you will be happy you have healthier fare when you are in a pinch and out of time)
  • Keep healthy snacks EVERYWHERE (your desk, your car, your purse... it makes it easier to fight temptation)
  • Remove tempting food from the house
  • Practice mindful eating (shut down electronics during meals and just actually savor your food – you will likely eat less)
  • Buy only what’s on your grocery list (don’t deviate from your mission)

This list should not take the fun out of eating. Healthy foods prepared well are delicious! This list also doesn’t mean you have to forgo other foods that may be less healthy (have chocolate cake, French fries, cheeses of all kinds (whatever you love), Moderation is key to getting through the holidays (and life for that matter) and feeling physically and mentally better. Eating well is self-care!

INTRO

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  Hey fellow holiday goers! 

How goes it during this festive time? We hope you are getting into the spirit of it all and enjoying yourselves! And if this is a rough time of year for you, we urge you to take extra care of yourself (self-love is powerful).

Whether we love the season or tolerate it, it can feel like our sanity is tested at times. So, we are busting out our 10 Commandments of Mental Wellness in our own 12 Days of Christmas spin so that we remember to do what we need to do to not lose it!

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