Mental Health Holiday Hangover

January 10, 2022

Wherever you are in this very moment, take a great deep breath and pause. And then sit still for twenty seconds. 1…2…3…

Did the title of this post resonate with you?

Hopefully you were able to enjoy the holiday season in some way, shape, or form amidst the ongoing pandemic. However you chose to celebrate and with whatever precautions you may have taken, it is likely that there is a bit of holiday fatigue hitting during these early weeks of January. A fresh new year presents an excellent opportunity to look ahead with excitement as we wipe our slates clean and set goals for the coming months. But before we do what our modern Western culture has taught us and quickly jump from one checklist item to the next, or one promising resolution to the next, let us take a moment for some intentional and much needed respite.

A psychology professor once taught me that, although glorified, multi-tasking is not actually possible. Instead, our brain quickly switches focus from one stimulus to the next at an incredible speed, alluding to the notion of multi-tasking. This has stuck with me for almost ten years and I bring it up with the hope that it will encourage you to be mindful of where your mental health gauge rests. Some folks might find the act of being still and doing nothing at all quite scary and uncomfortable. These are very valid feelings because stillness challenges productivity, and productivity is the golden ticket of our society (or is it?). Stillness also goes against the wave of internal static energy that we tend to normalize. A few simple practices can help you dive through the wave so that you end up on the other side in calm waters, rather than crash and tumble with the wave’s force and pressure.

Slow Down

First, allow yourself the grace to slow down. Whether you are at home taking care of your littles, back at work juggling various responsibilities, getting ready to run an errand, or making your way towards the bedroom to put your head down for the night, slow down. Slow down for five minutes, ten minutes, or ten seconds. Whenever you are ready and wherever you find yourself, give yourself permission to pause for just a moment. Give. Yourself. Permission.

Identify Your Back Pocket Technique

You are welcome to set up an environment that promotes relaxation, peace, and serenity, but we cannot count on this type of environment to be readily available when we truly need it. Try to identify some “back pocket” techniques to trigger your relaxation response even when the world around you feels anything but relaxing. I like to put one hand on my heart and one on my belly. There is something about feeling my heart beating and my breath circulating through my system that grounds me. Identify the thing you already have that bring you back to you. If you need to, borrow my strategy until you find your own.

Talk To Yourself and/or Press Rewind

I know how this sounds, but I mean it. Whether out loud or within the walls of your own mind ask yourself, “Am I okay today?”. You might be surprised with the thoughts that emerge from this simple yet powerful question. Then go deeper. If yes, why are you okay? If no, what hurts? Ask the questions until you feel your heart throb because you have given yourself the space and attention you deserve. Not ready for these types of questions? No problem. Try instead to play back various moments throughout the day and see if any overlooked details resurface now that you are still enough to notice them. Pay attention to detail, pay attention to your residual thoughts and feelings, pay attention to different emotions that suddenly make themselves known. Sit with them and listen to what they are telling you.

Be Kind

The holiday season demands a lot from us. Starting the new year off “right” demands a lot from us. We are on a constant roller coaster of consciously and subconsciously meeting demands all year long. Be kind to yourself as you navigate a new season, a new year, a new way to check in with yourself. Try to give yourself some encouragement and positive feedback.

I hope that my words find you at just the right time. Post-holiday season colliding with a pandemic can be especially tiring, if not absolutely exhaustive. Do your best to release yourself from autopilot and catch your breath every now and again. You’ve got this.

Be kind to yourself and shuffle on…

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