Strategies for Maintaining Your Mental Wellness During the Holidays

Most people never feel better than when they're hopping on a plane for a vacation or sitting down for a holiday meal surrounded by family. However, it's not the case for everyone. Many people experience anxiety, high stress levels, and distressed mental health during travel, family meetups and holiday celebrations. This is why it's so important to be caring and patient with ourselves during these high-pressure scenarios. Take a look at simple and practical tips for maintaining your wellness during travel and holidays.  

Plan Ahead With Help From a "List Buddy" When Traveling 

If you know you're prone to stress while traveling, it may be a good idea to ask someone you trust to make sure every item is checked off your list! Uncertainty and fear of something going wrong are the two significant factors that often cause people to feel anxious while traveling. Staying one step ahead by organizing all of the paperwork needed for visas, vaccinations, travel insurance, airline tickets, train tickets and hotel reservations is a great way to reduce that anxiety. Additionally, having a friend glance over everything a few days before you depart to ensure that you haven't overlooked anything can give you that extra peace of mind you need to enjoy your trip. 

Have Some "Canned" Phrases for Interactions

If you're meeting up with family or friends for the holidays, you may be concerned about having to deal with prying questions or comments regarding hot-button issues. It's easy to feel flustered when a comment we weren't expecting flies up at us from out of the blue. This is why having some very boundary-friendly, pre-planned replies for awkward or rude comments is a great idea. Here's a look at some phrases to keep in your back pocket when things get more personal or political than you like: 

Scenario: A rude comment about your relationship status, career status, or general state in life. 

Reply: "Thank you for taking an interest in my life. This has been a year I'm proud of due to [add an accomplishment or high point of your year]." 

Scenario: Overly aggressive political talk or attacks on a political belief. 

Reply: "I've decided to give myself a break from talking about politics over the holidays. Maybe we can continue that conversation in January."

Scenario: A rude comment about your appearance, weight or mood. 

Reply: "That's an interesting observation/assumption to make." 

It's essential to go into holiday settings prepared to set boundaries. However, there's no need to feel defensive or combative. After all, you have every right to enjoy a relaxing holiday experience. Always remember that you can also exercise your boundaries by simply declining an invitation if you know you'll be spending time with people who routinely violate your boundaries. 

Plan for Growth

Surviving the holidays can be easier when we see this as a transition time instead of a season that needs to be absolutely perfect. As the year draws to a close, we can use the downtime offered by the holiday season as a time of reflection and planning. This helps us to stop beating ourselves up if this year's holiday season isn't "picture perfect." It's okay if the holidays feel messy because you're working through a growth season to shed what isn't working in preparation for the new year. This can also be an excellent time to commit to creating closure on situations that have bothered us throughout the year. This can mean either deciding to forgive someone or exit a long-standing unhealthy dynamic. 

The Common Thread: Anticipation and Preparation

So much of the stress that springs upon us when traveling or celebrating the holidays can be predicted. Taking time to evaluate where things "went wrong" in similar circumstances in the past can be the greatest tool for avoiding those feelings this time around. When traveling, use past scenarios to predict your own needs. This can range from everything from packing along a high-protein snack to avoid feeling lightheaded and anxious while waiting for the snack cart to having relaxation apps loaded up on your phone for takeoff. The same goes with anticipating our own emotional needs when being thrown into settings with people who have been known to trigger or antagonize us. Self-care through self-anticipation can be a great way to maintain mental wellness in any scenario. 

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