Many of us find ourselves exhausted with the anticipation leading up to the holidays, not to mention wrapping up work before the holidays, planning events and meals, cooking and baking foods, and potential travel in a pandemic world. If you have any social anxiety whatsoever, the overall stress of gatherings with friends and family really put a damper on your focus and the available time you have to fully recharge your mental state.
Combine that with a TON of uncertainty in the past two years, putting in a TON of hours and effort and maybe not seeing/feeling the results (career, school, family as examples), and you not only lose focus on your goals, but you enter a downward spiral towards burnout and a drastic reduction in overall mental health. Many of us have experienced this at one point or another, and it requires considerable time, attention to detail, and FOCUS to recover your mental health (but it CAN be done, and it’s something that YOU can control).
Below is an actionable list of 12 festive Mental Focus tips and tools that will help you improve your focus and inspire healthy habits not only for the holidays, but your future efforts to take control on your Mental Health and Focus!
- Organization is key.
The easiest way to avoid getting that overwhelmed feeling is to create a plan, or a list, of EVERYTHING that you are thinking of completing. Review the list and sort it into:
a) Things that you MUST do (like put gas in the car before you drop off those 100 trays of cookies to friends and family)
b) Realistic things that you would *like* to do (create an exquisite meal/menu, hand-write all of the Holiday cards, get gifts wrapped and delivered to charities)
c) Not “world-ending” tasks that can be done at a later date (watch The Book of Boba Fett on the first day it’s released)
- Write down your thoughts.
I tend to have racing thoughts near the end of my day (right before bed, mostly). Write down the things you feel you might forget, those ideas that your brain is spitting out at you, or that shopping list and the one *extra* item that will make all the difference. Removing the mental load helps recycle and refresh those brain cells, just like a battery!
- Stick to your personal health routines as much as possible.
If you go out for a walk/run, don’t let visitors and changing schedules interrupt or override this. Stick to your routine, and don’t deviate – hell, INVITE those people to (safely) join you in YOUR routine. Not only will it keep your metabolism going, but it will also encourage quality and healthy time with you and yours!
- Get plenty of sleep and rest.
Adding to the previous tip, any strenuous activity (even this 20-30 minute walk) will help tire your body out and will ultimately help you sleep a bit better. You know when YOUR tank is running low – don’t over-exert yourself and take breaks when you can. Do NOT underestimate the value of a mid-day POWER NAP – they work wonders!
- Use your textable tribe or safe spot when you’re overwhelmed.
There is not a single day that goes by where I don’t reach out to someone from my textable tribe – those folks that are just THERE for you when you need them, and pick up on the conversation, no matter the length of time between texts. I find that YOU are your worst critic, and others ALWAYS have another view of the situation at hand.
If you have a favorite spot, be it in your house, your backyard, nearby park, mountain peak – find it. Use that solace to reflect and ground yourself back to an easy/simple thing you can do that makes you feel good and restores YOUR focus.
- Ask for help.
Use that technology that we all have for GOOD – reach out to someone via IM, text, phone, DM, Whatsapp, Teams, Signal and simply start by saying “Hey, mind if I ask you something?”. Yes, it is THAT simple, yet so many of us can’t seem to shift our pride to the side and just raise our hand. Remember that we’re not in this alone – a lot of people struggle during the holidays with memories of lost ones, ailing family or children, etc.
Most people I know genuinely want to help when asked a question – just reach out. Remember that your friends are/may NOT be professionally trained for thoughts leading to deeper mental health issues, so PLEASE do reach out to a professional Mental/Behavioral assistance program when needed!
- Be in the current moment.
This sounds super simple, and genuinely is. Just be present in the moment. Stay off of your phone/computers during family/friend events. Stop the hustle culture. Enjoy the current moment and try not to focus on that “thing you need to do next”. Life is too short to not enjoy moments AS THEY HAPPEN…
- Eat healthy meals and drink in moderation.
This is a tough one, especially with all of those incredible “guilt-free” cookies, dips, and incredible dishes that everyone creates. However, think of it this way – YOU can set the pace of your consumption of these things. Also, do consider healthier replacements in your recipes – adding low or no-fat options to dips and casseroles brings a healthier approach to the festivities.
For food, follow the 50/50 plate rule – half of your plate is cheese/crackers/snacks, and the other half is fruits/vegetables/nuts. The same applies for drinks – drink a full glass of water (sparkling water is even BETTER) between those spiked eggnog, Christmas punch, or Mimosas. Not only will you stay more hydrated, you will consume way less of the “great-tasting, but bad for you” stuff.
- Focus on what you can control.
You cannot control what others think, say, or do – but you CAN control how YOU react. Don’t try to defuse sticky conversations or situations – while you still have an opinion, you can respectfully agree to disagree, especially in a public event. Do however take control of a situation where someone may need assistance getting home – call an Uber/Lyft for them and ensure they have safely returned.
One of my favorites, of which I have taught to both of my kiddos (or did they really teach me this one?). It’s called deep-belly breathing and it’s super simple. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Then, purse your lips (as if you were to whistle), and slowly exhale through your mouth for 10 seconds. Do this at LEAST three times. Thank me later…
- It’s ok to say no.
Don’t just push through and get the thing done you said you would do because you *think* someone will be let down. Heading out to one more party? Making one more dish for an event? Trying to generally just do TOO much with too little time? Setting an expectation and sticking to it shows great character and self-awareness – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
- Prioritize YOU.
Be intentional in everything you do. Read that book to relax, write that blog or organized list, watch that show or movie, build that Lego set (finally). YOU need the organization and the rest – give yourself the permission and the focus time to do it!
This is NOT my Ted talk, but my Chris(mas) talk. I personally use all twelve of these tips above, and I do hope that at least ONE of the tips helps YOU form a new healthy habit. Happy to once again contribute to this wonderful Festive Tech Calendar event! Thank you for being a faithful reader – Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to you all!