A person sits on the floor wearing holiday socks. They hold a coffee mug in their hands.
Take some time to treat yourself with kindness this holiday season. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Winter holidays are cause for celebration and reflection, excitement and anticipation. You may finally have that long-awaited time off—even a vacation or a staycation with loved ones.

But the holiday season isn’t always merry and bright.

In addition to normal responsibilities and demands on time, you are likely adding in shopping for gifts and groceries, party or travel planning, extra cleaning and entertaining.

This year might also bring with it the continuing worry of safely navigating gatherings amid COVID-19.

It’s important to acknowledge your feelings and it can be useful to have strategies in place to mitigate stress and fatigue during the holidays.

Here are a few ways to give yourself the gifts of time, energy and compassion.

Take a moment to regroup

If you feel overwhelmed in a group setting, or you generally begin to experience the physical effects of stress—headache, fatigue, soreness—take time to pause and reevaluate.

Quiet the mind with gentle meditation. Find a peaceful place to sit.

Close your eyes or focus on one point in the room. Take deep breaths—in through your nose and out through your mouth—for five to 10 seconds at a time.

As thoughts rise, acknowledge them and let them go.

Even a few minutes of this will help you to de-stress.

Take a walk, too. When you walk, you engage in bilateral stimulation, which encourages better communication between the two sides of the brain. This kind of low-intensity exercise, especially in the afternoon, will help your body feel grounded and wake up your senses.

Shape a healthy lifestyle

Stick to your routines and form healthier habits. The holidays are exciting, but with that excitement comes extra food—usually high in sugar—and erratic sleep schedules.

Often, you’ll also experience a decrease in exercise.

As much as possible, keep your routine during the holidays and, if possible, get even more sleep and exercise. Get excited to recommit to your wellness with new and improved habits in 2022.

Give something personal

One of the primary stressors during the holidays is gift-giving. While it can be delightful to find just the right present for each special person, it is also true that the expectations surrounding gift-giving often cause increased financial and emotional strain.

Two ways to combat this pressure: Set boundaries with yourself—this includes following a budget—and be honest with others.

Here are some additional ideas:

  • Propose a gift exchange. This way, you’ll only be buying one gift rather than many for the same group of people.
  • Give a gift with a personal touch. Craft, bake, or bring a home-cooked meal to a neighbor or friend.
  • Give the gift of time. Invite a friend or family member to volunteer with you. You will get to spend quality time with a loved one while giving to those in need.
  • Use words of affirmation. Write those you love a heartfelt note or make a phone call you’ve been putting off.

Gifts can take many forms—and everyone is valuable.

Get support

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 24% of people with a documented mental illness reported that the holidays make their condition a lot worse and 40% felt it was somewhat worse.

If you are feeling the holiday blues because of loneliness, grief, seasonal affective disorder or any other reason, reach out for help.

Take time to treat yourself with kindness and communicate your needs.

With a little planning and some coping mechanisms in place, you can battle mental and physical fatigue and find some peace this winter.