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Seven Mental Health Care Tips for the Holidays Next item A Love Letter to Lebanon...

Seven Mental Health Care Tips for the Holidays

The holiday period can be emotionally overwhelming because the many expectations and interpersonal dynamics make tensions run high. Whether it’s travelling to see family, social gatherings, gift exchanges or other holiday rituals, there’s extra effort and strain involved. Add the on-going pandemic, combined with Lebanon’s deepening economic crisis and the overall stress levels can get pretty high. Lebanon already has countless stories of struggle, loss and hardships and the pressure to ‘celebrate’ can magnify the pain.

If you’re struggling to any degree during this holiday season we did a round up of seven mental health tips to remind ourselves that it’s okay to do things differently.

1- Don’t be Shy to Say ‘No’

If you are invited to an event or gathering that you know causes heartache or disappointment for you, then simply decline. Friends and colleagues will understand if you don’t participate in their projects or activities. And if you have recently been through a loss of someone close to you, and you don’t feel like celebrating, those near to you should understand. However, if you are in the mood to socialise, say “yes” to events and things that bring you joy and which you feel comfortable with. In other words, follow your instincts and participate in the things that align with your mood and well-being.

2- Don’t Overspend

Spend only what you can afford. A sentiment behind a gift is more important than the cost. You can write someone a poem, make a drawing or even bake cookies and show that you took time to prepare something special. You can even offer your talent and time to your friends and loved ones, such as offering to babysit their children or teaching them a skill you have. If you are hosting a holiday dinner – make it a potluck so each guest brings something towards the supper. The holidays should be a time for sharing and caring and not for showing off in front of family and friends.

Picture credit: https://www.nymetroparents.com/article/family-holiday-dinner-ideas-

3- Avoid Comparisons

You may start to compare past holidays with this one and think how much more fun or extravagant they were before. Remember, our lives and circumstances evolve and what we had in the past was great at the time but it doesn’t have to be repeated. People are much more conscious now about living resourcefully and reducing their carbon footprint. We don’t need fancy wrapping paper, lavish commercially produced decorations, superfluous gifts and so forth. Keep it simple, go for local handmade decorations when possible or improvise and re-use things you already have. Don’t get caught up with social media and consumer advertising images either, as they can give an unrealistic image of how we should celebrate, and we may feel that we can’t measure up. All of this can negatively affect our self-esteem, so focus on the benefits of family time and not on how to impress others.

4- Participate in Your Local Community

Many Lebanese might not have the luxury of seeing their loved ones who live abroad or the high cost of petrol makes it difficult to commute long distances, making this holiday period a time of isolation. However, the holidays do not require you to be part of a big family gathering and you can volunteer in your community through the many charity organizations in Lebanon. From food banks, care homes to pet shelters (and everything in between) there are so many great organizations that would genuinely appreciate your assistance. Volunteering is a great way to connect with people and boost your confidence, not to mention to make new friends. Here’s a list courtesy of Beirut.com with places that welcome volunteers worth checking out https://www.beirut.com/l/57091 . You can also check out this list of 10 NGOs in Lebanon courtesy of Trendingtalks
https://trendingtalks.me/2021/09/03/10-ngos-you-can-volunteer-in-to-make-our-lebanon-a-better-place/ or for a larger listing to browse through, check the volunteer directory https://thevolunteercircle.com/directory.

Picture Credit: http://whysgiving.com/10-ways-to-volunteer-during-the-holidays/

5- Put Yourself First

With so much focus on giving during the holidays, it can be easy to forget to look after yourself. However, taking care of yourself will put you in a better mood and facilitate taking care of others. Don’t burn yourself out just to be a good host and/or to please your family. Set aside some time to do things you enjoy and to recharge your batteries. It can be small things but done regularly. Find time to exercise even if it’s just a 20-minute walk as it will make a difference. You can also practice breathing exercises. We previously wrote on the great benefits of breathing exercises which you can read about here: https://thewellnessproject.me/2020/06/25/breathwork-what-it-is-the-different-types-and-how-it-could-change-your-life/. You may also need to set boundaries with others. December is usually a busy time at work (closing in on the year with deadlines to finish), and if you are employed you may be asked to work longer hours, while managing personal and social obligations after work. Know when to say yes or no, or negotiate fairly with your employer so you don’t jeopardize your job but you also don’t exhaust yourself.

6- Practice Moderation

Many of us may overindulge this season with lots of tempting foods. When the waistline increases in a short period of time, we may not feel good afterwards and that can add on the stress. Just remember to balance your diet with healthy eating and if you drink, do so in moderation. Don’t be afraid to politely decline a second portion or an offering of sweets when you are a guest at someone’s house. Of course, you may encounter the friend or relative that typically says, “Walaw, I cooked your favourite dish, and you are not eating!” All that Lebanese guilt tripping surfaces in which not overeating is culturally impolite in some households. Well, the simple and pretty effective way to say no without offending is to compliment and then postpone. So next time your favourite feisty auntie tries to offer you another portion of her traditional roz a djej (Lebanese rice with chicken) or her sweet mugli (rice pudding) bowl answer back in this way without offending her: “It’s my favourite dish and your version is the absolute best, but I already had some/ I’m really full at the moment/I’ll have some later/I’d love to take some home with me to eat tomorrow/l’ll get the recipe from you.” You can hope that the host will get distracted with your excuses then move on to another guest!

7- Set Aside Differences – Practice Empathy

You may have one or more family members you never liked or have an unresolved issue with. Try to set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. Try to be understanding if others get upset or distressed if something doesn’t go their way. With Lebanon’s severe inflation and soaring prices, the majority of people in the country are struggling financially and in turn emotionally. Let’s be understating and kind when we are with others – those we know or with strangers we encounter. Let’s consciously choose kindness over irritation. An act of kindness ripples so far and you might be surprised to know that you have made someone’s day with even a small gesture.

No doubt the holidays bring out a lot of emotions in people – whether good or bad – and everyone has a unique experience. This year let’s try to practice compassion and understanding towards others and simply do what we can without overstretching ourselves. Our well-being comes first, so always take good care of yourself. Finally, on behalf of The Wellness Project Team, I want to wish you all good health, peace of mind, and plenty of happiness!

Picture reference: https://www.rootsofaction.com/empathy-families-children/

References
First picture credit: https://phoenixctr.com/mental-health-self-care-for-the-holidays/

https://www.priorygroup.com/blog/coping-at-christmas-5-top-tips-to-look-after-your-mental-health
https://www.healthline.com/health/holiday-stress
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544
https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/charli-cohen/christmas-diets_b_4333107.html