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Robert R. Cawley, D.O.

Dover, NH 03802

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Managing Holiday Stress: Balancing Your Mental Health This Season

Cooking, baking, shopping, wrapping, mailing, cleaning, entertaining, traveling – does this sound like your holiday to-do list? If endless priorities are also dampening your holiday cheer, it may be time to re-evaluate how you are managing stress.

Maintaining healthy stress levels is so important to your overall health, reducing your risk factors for everything from depression and anxiety to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Colleen Canfield-Smith, LMHC, and Lauren DeBaene, LCMCH, of Wentworth-Douglass Behavioral Health Services, share their advice to help you feel rested and prepared to have a happy holidays!

Take Care of Yourself

Making your physical and mental health a priority – even on the busiest of days – is so important. Finding time to rest and maintain your healthy habits, like exercising and eating right, will only have a positive impact on stress levels. 

“Be mindful of the foods you are eating and how they can impact your mood,” says DeBaene. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware and living in the moment. Mindful eating may entail reflecting on the reasons you are eating at that moment, and also avoiding distractions during meals so you are able to fully enjoy each bite.

Manage Your Expectations

Ditch the idea of a perfect holiday! Instead, be realistic about what’s most important to you and your family. Avoid placing oversized expectations on the people around you as well. “The holidays can be a difficult time for some people, especially for those who have mood disorders,” says Canfield-Smith. “Social pressures can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression.”

If your feel your expectations spiraling out of control, sign out of Facebook and open a guided meditation app. Or, spend a few quiet minutes doing a breathing exercise. Inhale deeply through your nose and as you breathe out relax specific muscles group throughout your body, starting with your jaw and working down. A few minutes of deep breathing can help to tame your stress.  

Do For Others

Nothing feels better than giving of yourself to others. And when you feel good, it’s easier to tolerate the stressors around you. “Community care can also be self-care!” says DeBaene.   

Buy a toy for a child in need, help a neighbor shovel their driveway, volunteer at a local charity – and then bask in the feel-good vibes. Even little moments of paying it forward can go a long way toward improving your mood. 

If you find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, professional support might help. Behavioral health specialists are available through Wentworth Health Partners’ primary care practices and at Wentworth Health Partners Great Bay Mental Health.

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Behavioral Health