As the frost hits the trees and the smell of green chile and piñon smoke fills the air, we are reminded that the holidays are right around the corner! For some, the holidays are a magical time of year, but for others the holidays bring on depression, stress, family obligations, financial strain, and anxiety. This is the second holiday season of the COVID-19 pandemic; family gatherings, vaccinations, social isolation, and risk of infection can also cause distress.
For most northern New Mexicans in the winter, our bodies don’t get enough Vitamin D that supports wellbeing and a sense of happiness, due to less sunlight and not being outdoors as much.
As a therapist I have worked with people throughout the holidays and have found helpful tips that may support you as you maneuver both the excitement and stress of the holidays, and winter.
- Make caring for yourself a priority: It is important that you take time for yourself to allow you to ground and decompress from the responsibility you may be under.
- Eat well: During the holidays, we can become overindulgent in the flavors of this time of year. With eating and drinking, we should monitor and not overstress our bodies with sugar, excessive calories or overuse of alcohol to manage anxiety or depression symptoms.
- Make new traditions: For some of us, the sadness over a change in dynamics in your family may make you sad or depressed—that old traditions are no longer the same because of death, divorce, or COVID-19 isolation. So, start something new, or modify your tradition to meet your own or your family’s need for celebration and reflection. Since my mother passed, I bring a bouquet of flowers to my family holiday dinners as a beautiful reminder that her spirit is still with me.
- Don’t overdo it financially: Sometimes we lose the sense of the holidays and being with family or loved ones. Gift exchanges can be small and intimate. Make a homemade gift or bake a gift basket. Don’t get yourself in debt over material things that take away from personal connection.
- Stay connected: Just because the holidays may bring stress, be mindful of your desire to isolate and keep away. Make some connections—even a small intimate night with some friends may be all you need to stay connected.
- Love yourself: the most important person is you. It is important that you work on staying healthy so the self-love radiates and sets off a chain of events that are surrounded by and filled with love.
I hope that these tips support you in managing your emotions and stress during the winter and the holidays. If you or someone you know is in need of additional support, please reach out for help.
Brian Salazar MA, LMHC, is a therapist with Taos Behavioral Health and works with youth in northern Taos County, including Questa. Reach him at (575) 758-4297.