Contributed by NAMI Oklahoma

As the new year approaches, it’s essential to recognize that it can be a bittersweet time for many. For some, the holidays are a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness, but for others, they can be a poignant reminder of loss and absence. Navigating grief during this post-holiday period requires a delicate balance of self-reflection, self-care, and understanding.

Keep reading to to explore the often-overlooked aspect of post-holiday grief and learn insights on how to find balance after a busy holiday season. Grief doesn’t adhere to a calendar, and acknowledging its presence is the first step toward healing.

Here are a Few Tips for Your Mental Health After the Holidays:

Accept your needs. Be kind to yourself! Put your own mental and physical well-being first. Recognize what your triggers are to help you prepare for stressful situations. Is shopping for holiday gifts too stressful for you? What is making you feel physically and mentally agitated? Once you know this, you can take steps to avoid or cope with stress.

Write a gratitude list and offer thanks. As we enter the new year, it’s a good time to reflect on what you are grateful for, and then thank those who have supported you. Gratitude has been shown to improve mental health.

Manage your time and don’t try to do too much. Prioritizing your time and activities can help you use your time well. Making a day-to-day schedule helps ensure you don’t feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks and deadlines. It’s okay to say no to plans that don’t fit into your schedule or make you feel good.

Be realistic. The happy lives of the people shown in those holiday commercials are fictional. We all have struggles one time or another and it’s not realistic to expect otherwise. Sometimes, it’s simply not possible to find the perfect gift or have a peaceful time with family.

Set boundaries. Family dynamics can be complex. Acknowledge them and accept that you can only control your role. If you need to, find ways to limit your exposure.

Practice relaxation. Deep breathing, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation are good ways to calm yourself. Taking a break to refocus can have benefits beyond the immediate moment.

Exercise daily. Schedule time to walk outside, bike or join a dance class. Whatever you do, make sure it’s fun. Daily exercise naturally produces stress-relieving hormones in your body and improves your overall physical health. More on the benefits of movement.

Set aside time for yourself and prioritize self-care. Schedule time for activities that make you feel good. It might be reading a book, going to the movies, getting a massage, listening to music you love, or taking your dog for a walk. It’s okay to prioritize alone time you need to recharge. More on self-care.

Eat well. With dinners, parties, and cookie trays at every turn, our eating habits are challenged during the holiday season. Try to maintain a healthy diet through it all. Eating unprocessed foods, like whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit is the foundation for a healthy body and mind. Eating well can also help stabilize your mood.

Get enough sleep. Symptoms of some mental health conditions, like mania in bipolar disorder, can be triggered by getting too little sleep.

Avoid alcohol and drugs. They don’t actually reduce stress: in fact, they often worsen it. If you’re struggling with substance abuse, educate yourself and get help.

Spend time in nature. Studies show that time in nature reduces stress. Need to break away from family during a holiday gathering? Take a walk in a local park.

Volunteer. The act of volunteering can provide a great source of comfort. By helping people who are not as fortunate, you can also feel less lonely or isolated and more connected to your community.

Find support. Whether it’s with friends, family, a counselor, or a support group, talking can help. Consider attending a free support group provided by your local NAMI Oklahoma affiliate. If you or someone you love is experiencing a crisis, you can call the National Suicide and Crisis Line at 988; use the Crisis Text Line by texting “HelpLine” to 62640where you can connect with a HelpLine Specialist 24/7 when you need support, information and resources; or call the NAMI Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) M–F, 9 a.m.– 9p.m. CT for free mental health info, referrals and support.

Keep up or seek therapy. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may be time to share with your mental health professional. They can help you pinpoint specific events that trigger you and help you create an action plan to change them. If you’re already seeing a therapist, keep it up.

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