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Navigating mental health during the holidays

Posted at 11:41 AM, Dec 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-09 11:41:04-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — While the holiday season has so many things to enjoy, it can also be a stressful time for many people.

"It's very important to take care of yourself, because that's going to make everyone else in your life much happier,” said Michelle Martel, an Associate Professor with the University of Kentucky Psychology Department and Licensed Clinical Psychologist.

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it can be easy to put self-care at the bottom of your to-do list. But Martel says focusing on your mental health this time of the year is important.

"Try to keep an eye on and focus on what's most important to you and try not to let yourself get drawn into being too busy or trying to accomplish too much, to keep it manageable,” said Martel.

This season brings different stressors. Take finances for example. If that's a main concern, Martel suggests setting a spending cap. You can even apply the same logic if family obligations stress you out.

"Counter-intuitively, limiting your family time can also be helpful,” said Martel. “Quality is more important than quantity, so if you know that your family is going to be a trigger for you, maybe just have a plan to go for a few hours and leave. You don't have to spend the whole day or the whole week."

The holidays also bring triggers for those who experience more serious disorders, like depression. Martel suggests seeking out support, either from a professional or loved ones.

Also, while food is usually an enjoyable part of the season, it can be tough to navigate for those struggling with an eating disorder or a complicated relationship with food. This is also when a support system is beneficial.

"Knowing your triggers and trying to avoid your triggers. That's a great place where you can enlist family help around that,” said Martel. “If you know there's a certain food that's particularly difficult for you, maybe keep it out of the house, asking people to keep it away from you."

Martel also suggest staying active physically and spending time outdoors, if you can.