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How To Put Yourself First This Holiday Season

Andy Williams may be singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” in your holiday playlist, but you may not be feeling it. You may feel run down—physically, emotionally and mentally—by the unintended stresses of the season.

We had a chat with Jeanette Mazon, licensed master social worker and clinical case manager for Banner Health. She provided some simple tips to re-center and re-focus yourself, so you can be the best version of yourself during the holidays.

1. Just Breathe

If you start to feel anxious and stressed, take a moment to breathe. It doesn’t have to take long—just a few minutes. You can do it in your car, in bed and even at work. Apps like Headspace or Insight Timer encourage you take a little time to devote to yourself.

“Breathing sends the brain the message that it is time to calm down,” Mazon said. “Within a few seconds your body will begin to relax, and your heart rate will slow. An easy exercise to do is belly breathing.”

2. Take a Long Shower or Bath

Whether you are stuffed to the gills at your parents’ house or enjoying the holidays at home, nothing can relieve tension and stress like a hot shower or bath. Warm water can have a calming effect on the body and relax muscles. Mazon also suggested using your five senses to re-center yourself.

“Notice how the water flows on your body, the noises it makes, how warm it feels. If you can, light a candle, and notice how the light reflects on the wall and its smell,” Mazon said.

3. Set Boundaries with Others

While it’s good to lend a hand, don’t let yourself fall prey to busy work and obligations.

“Building boundaries is one of the most difficult parts of any relationship, but especially difficult with familial relationships,” Mazon said. “You cannot give from an empty cup; you must take care of yourself first before you can take care of anyone else.”

Politely let family and friends know that you need a break and time for yourself if you are continuously being asked to do things.

4. Treat Exercise as a Treat and Not a Chore

The holiday season can get so busy that it becomes easy to neglect ourselves by skipping our regular workouts—in fact, it’s usually one of the first things to go. But exercise is a proven stress-reliever, Mazon said.

“Sometimes we think of drinking and eating as a way to ‘treat yourself,’ but when we are ‘treating’ ourselves like that every day, we are no longer treating ourselves right,” Mazon cautioned. “Instead look at exercise as a way to ‘treat’ your body instead of something to get out of the way.”

Even a 20-minute walk is better than nothing!

Self-care and love is vital all year long, but it can be especially tough this time of year. Your mental health is as important as your physical health. If you find yourself struggling with stress, anxiety or depression, our Banner Health behavioral health experts are here for you. To find a mental health specialist near you, visit bannerhealth.com.

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