The holidays are often filled with many opportunities to interact with friends and family. Some people call it the most wonderful time of year, but that is not the case for everyone, and that is ok!
The last few years have brought many changes, uncertainties, and stresses to people around the world. Some may have lost a job or a loved one this year. Others may have started a new job or moved into a new home (good stress is still stress.) Has your condition worsened, or have you received a new health diagnosis? Maybe it is the impact of strained family relationships that have you feeling worried this season. Whatever the cause of stress and anxiety, we want you to know that you are valuable and cared for. At a time when we tend to focus on others, remember to take care of your mental health!
As we head into the new year, you can set goals to help reduce stress and take care of yourself. Here are just a few ways to help you reach your mental health goals:
Pay attention to how you are feeling: Writing in a journal or drawing can help you process your feelings, calm your mind, and identify what is causing you stress or other emotions.
- If you identify that you are stressed, try making changes to those activities or interactions as you are able, to do something more peaceful. For example, instead of going to the busy mall to buy gifts, you choose to stay home and shop online.
- If you feel stressed or worried that you will not feel well enough to attend all the holiday activities that you are invited to, you may decide which are most important, and which best fit your energy level. It is ok to say no if something is going to cause anxiety or affect your health.
- Talk to your family and friends about your concerns.
- Practice relaxation techniques and breathing exercises when you are feeling anxious.
- If you are feeling isolated, stressed, or overwhelmed, ask for help. Often people want to help but they just don’t know how. It is ok to ask for help and tell others what you need, which can help open the door to better communication.
Take time to understand why you might be feeling extra anxious, stressed, or down:
- Sometimes these feelings can be related to unrealistic goals or pressure from ourselves and others. If this is the case think of ways that you can change your goals to make them easier to reach.
- As the saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant? …One bite at a time.” Start with baby steps, setting daily, weekly, or monthly goals that you will be able to accomplish based upon how you feel, and do not be afraid to change them if needed.
Practice gratitude: Spend time thinking about things that you are thankful for. Think about the things that make you happy or bring you joy.
- Happiness through practicing gratitude has been linked to improved health and energy.
- Write down your ideas and refer to them often.
- Call a friend and talk about the things you are thankful for.
- If you are a religious person, meditate or pray about them.
- Try not to rush through your day. Be present and take time to really focus on and experience the good things that each day brings.
Schedule time for rest and self-care: Make time for self-care activities such as exercise and hobbies that you enjoy.
- Adding these activities into your daily schedule will help you remember to focus on yourself during busy times.
- Make sure that you are getting enough sleep and eating healthy, balanced meals. Lack of sleep and hunger can contribute to anxiousness.
- If you need help with getting food, contact your local Red Cross for food bank information in your area.
Get Help: If you find that you are unable to cope with your stress and anxiety, be sure to talk to your health care provider and get the help that you need.
- Find a counselor or local support group.
- Connect with your COPD family on COPD360 social.
- Reach out to your doctor to discuss medication and treatment options for anxiety and depression.
- Talking to a counselor can help you have less anxiety and depression.
Whether you are an individual living with COPD, or a caregiver, remember to take time for yourself. It is normal to struggle at times with feeling low or stressed when you or your loved ones are faced with the unknown. In order to help avoid feeling overwhelmed it is important that you take time for your health; spirit, soul, and body. Remember, YOU are worth it!
For more resources about goal setting check out the Coping with COPD guide.
Let’s hear from you, how are you coping this holiday season? For those of you who have self-care tips that work for you, please share them in the comments.