28 Dec 21 / Blog

How To Cope With Low Mood And Low Energy Over The Holidays

If you feel low mood and low energy over the holidays, I’ve put together some of my top tips to help you cope. Maybe you know exactly why you’re feeling this way or perhaps you can’t quite put your finger on it, but hopefully, you’ll find something in this list to help you manage your mood and your energy when these times approach.

Reasons for low mood and Low Energy

Overwhelm

The holiday seasons often bring with them so many more demands for your time. From cooking, buying presents, putting up decorations, organising travel, more socialising than usual, packing, cleaning, welcoming guests (sometimes not so welcome guests. It’s no wonder people start to feel tired and stressed as they continue to try and go about their day to day while also preparing for the celebrations. 

The pressure of the perfect holiday

No Christmas, New Year, Hanukkah, Diwali, Spring break or summer holiday is perfect. Everyone has a vision of their ideal celebration, but when reality fails to live up to the expectation, we can become stressed, sad, angry and frustrated. 

You already suffer from mental ill-health

If you suffer from anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder or any other mental ill-health, times of celebration can exacerbate your symptoms, bringing emotions to the surface that can be difficult to navigate while it seems everyone else is cheery.  

You’re missing someone

The holidays can be incredibly difficult for people grieving the loss of a loved one. Even if the loss happened years ago, or it could be the loss of a pet or the end of a relationship. You might find that your grief is more intense during the holidays as family and friends gather. It can make the absence of your loved one very apparent. You may feel unexpectedly angry or like you could burst into tears at any moment. You might also feel anxious about how you’ll get through this time.

You’re consuming more calories and/or alcohol

Who hasn’t uttered ‘why not, it’s Christmas’ as they stuffed another Quality Street down or ordered one more drink. And who can resist the summer BBQs, all you can eat buffets and all-inclusive poolside treats? Holidays often come with overindulgence, and while this is perfectly normal and ok to do every now and again, it’s worth remembering just how much food and drink affects our mood. Alcohol is a depressant and too much food that is high in salt, sugar and fat can leave us feeling sluggish and uncomfortable. 

Your routine is disturbed

As much as holidays are needed and we benefit from the break in our daily routine, there are benefits to a routine too. They make a situation feel more controllable and predictable and can help reduce anxiety. When the holidays appear and throw all of our usual habits out of the window, this can make us feel less in control. Routines help us to make lots of smaller decisions about how we go about our day and without this, those decisions, from what to have for breakfast to what to wear and when to go to bed, suddenly feel more stressful. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder or (SAD) is a type of depression linked to changes in the seasons. Most people with this condition, find that their mood lowers during the winter months and alleviates in the spring and summertime. At its mildest, you may find you oversleep, gain weight and experience tiredness and low energy. At its most severe, you may find yourself having difficulty concentrating, feeling hopeless and even having suicidal thoughts. It’s important to see your GP if you are experiencing this. 

Financial stress

Research from the National Debt Line shows that 6% of UK adults feel that financial pressures around Chrismtas make the holiday less enjoyable and 2% lose sleep over it. Another study showed that 43% of UK adults under 34 are worried about spending more than they can afford. The temptation and social pressure to spend more and more on gifts and goods around the holidays is extremely high and this can lead to stress and anxiety. 

Family and loved ones

Although holidays can provide amazing opportunities to bond with family and friends, they can also present opportunities for conflict to arise. Not everyone gets along with their family or there may be arguments over who comes to stay and who to spend certain days with. Political differences, religious differences, a family member who drinks too much, grief or simply not having enough time to see everyone. There are so many reasons why family gatherings can cause stress, overwhelm and anxiety.  

If any of these have resonated with you, here are my top tips to look after your mental health over the holidays – whatever the time of year

Tips to manage your mental health over the holidays 

  1. Acknowledge your feelings

Acknowledging your feelings is often the first step. Emotional awareness helps us to recognise our feelings and talk about them more clearly. It helps us to resolve conflict better and move past difficult emotions more easily. Journaling can help with this, as it allows you to put your stream of consciousness down on the page.

  1. Reduce your time on social media or have a ‘digital detox’.

If your phone is the first thing you reach for in the morning, you’re not alone. From keeping in touch with family and friends to getting everything from news updates to recipes, job alerts and product recommendations, it seems that social media has become an essential part of our daily lives. The truth is, however, that for most of us, it is not essential. If you’re also someone who works on a computer a lot, then the majority of your day is probably spent staring at a screen. We also now know the harm that social media can have on mental health and giving yourself a digital detox can help reduce these effects. Whether it;s for a few days, a few weeks or as long as you need it to be, there are some simple steps you can take to put your detox plan into action. 

  • Tell people that you interact with on social media that you’ll be offline for a while.
  • Delete social media apps on your phone 
  • Have a few things that you can do instead of social media when you feel the urge to log on – a book by your bed, journaling, learning something new, meditating, yoga or calling a friend are just a few suggestions. 
  1. Schedule in time for yourself to relax and recharge

In our busy lives, taking time to relax and recharge often ends up at the bottom of our list of things to do. It feels like an indulgence, but it’s actually essential to keeping your mind and body healthy. Especially during the holidays, when we may be harder on ourselves, thinking that being ‘on holiday’ is enough rest. If you’re faced with lots of social engagements, organising and planning, however, then a holiday can feel like anything but. Scheduling your downtime by adding it to your calendar helps you to see it as an appointment. Treat yourself with the same respect and care as you would a family member or friend. Would you deny them time to relax? 

Schedule in time for yourself to relax and recharge
  1. Learn to say no

Saying yes when you don’t really want to can leave you feeling overwhelmed and resentful. Loved ones will understand if you can’t make it to every single occasion and if they don’t, that’s something they need to deal with. It is not your burden to take on. Setting boundaries is really important because making yourself available to everyone at all times, to the detriment of yourself, is not healthy or good for anyone. Saying no can be challenging, especially when you care about someone and don’t want to let them down, but being assertive doesn’t mean that you are rude. 

  1. Keep some of your routines

Carrying out certain activities in a routine can help you to keep some sense of control and reduce stress during challenging times. Morning and/or evening routines such as taking the time to do yoga or have a warm bath, or ensuring you have some daily exercise will help create more mental space for all the unpredictable elements of holidays. When you reduce the number of decisions you need to make in a day, peace and relaxation will follow. You’ll likely see improved mood and better sleep. 

  1. Budget

Having a budget helps year-round, but really becomes essential during times when you know you might be spending more than usual. If you can, plan ahead of time, so that if you need to increase your budget for holidays to include gifts, decorations and other extra expenses, then you can save up for it. Set yourself a limit, breaking it down into areas such as food and drink, gifts, etc and stick to it. 

Keep some of your routines
  1. Keep healthy habits

While holidays are notoriously a time to indulge, keeping some of your healthy habits can have a hugely positive impact on your mental health. That doesn’t mean you have to say no to every cocktail by the pool or mince pie by the fire, but there are some simple ways to help you make healthier choices that you know will make you feel good. 

  • Keep moving – you might be sitting or lying down a lot over the holidays, but make sure to still get some movement into your day. A short walk up and down your street, some steps while you’re watching your favourite TV programme or a few lengths of the pool will help aid digestion, keep blood circulating and increase feel-good endorphins. 
  • Go easy on the alcohol – try alternating your drinks with a soft drink or glass of water. Your body will thank you for it the next day!
  • Eat slowly – your body will have more time to register when it’s full, meaning you’re less likely to stuff yourself to the point of feeling ill. 
  1. Take a breather

If you start feeling overwhelmed and you’re in a social activity, take 5 minutes. Excuse yourself to go to the bathroom or if you’re in your own house, pop to your bedroom for a short break. If you can, take a walk outside or open a window to breathe in some fresh air. Spending just 5-15 minutes alone, without distraction, may help refresh you enough to carry on with your social engagement. Try taking 3 deep breaths, in through the nose for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds and then out through the mouth for 5 seconds. This can help lower your heart rate and reduce stress in the body. If you can talk to a friend or family member about how you’re feeling, they may be able to help you. And if you feel you need to leave a social engagement early, then do so. 

Take a breather
  1. Seek further help

While all these tips can help increase your mood and energy levels over the holidays, it’s important to seek further help when you need it. If you’re suffering from depression, anxiety or any other mental health condition and feel your symptoms are worsening, then please do speak to your GP.

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