The holidays should be a fun and exciting time, but for some people, it creates sadness, stress and anxiety. Some people are out shopping for gifts, decorating their homes and spending time with family and friends. For others, they are often reminded of loved ones who passed away and dread the idea of spending another holiday season without that special someone. The various moving parts of this season, such as wrapping gifts, packing, traveling and cooking, can be overwhelming.  

On the other hand, people may also experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs during the same season each year. You may have SAD if you felt depressed during the last two winters, but felt much better in spring and summer. Some people may have SAD during the summer months. But in the winter, it gets darker earlier and there is less sunlight, causing problems with the levels of serotonin in the brain and, as a result, some may feel depressed.  

But no matter what side of the spectrum you are on, here are five tips that will help you manage your mental health during this holiday season.

1. Set Boundaries

This may sound simple, but it can be challenging to set boundaries, especially around the holiday season. But in order for you to be at your best and prevent burn out, it is important, to be honest with yourself and others about what can and cannot do. This means saying no when you have too much on your plate, even though you may want to help someone. This also includes asking for help when you need it and taking time for yourself to relax and rejuvenate. 

2. Stay Active

The holidays are the time where many of us pig out on all of our favorite desserts, but remaining active will help us find balance. Staying active does not have to include going to the gym if that's not your thing, but making small adjustments that require you to move your body, like playing  games with your children, taking the steps instead of the elevator or trying a new class. Staying active releases endorphins (also known as the feel-good chemical). Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine, which helps to alleviate stress and improve your sleep.

3. Essential Oils

For those who prefer a holistic approach, essential oils are for you. The benefits of essentials are beyond amazing and there are plenty of oils that are excellent mood boosters. Some of my favorite oils include lavender, bergamot and eucalyptus. Bergamot helps to stabilize overpowering emotions and provide mental clarity. Lavender relaxes you, promotes a balanced mood and helps you sleep. Eucalyptus is great for mental exhaustion and relieves muscle pain. And guess what? If you tend to catch a cold during this season, eucalyptus is the oil for you. These oils can be placed in a diffuser, rubbed on the affected area and you can place a few drops in your bath water. When my anxiety or depression kicks in, I immediately take a bath with my oils and turn on my diffuser before I go to sleep and when I wake up I feel a shift in my mood.

4. Journaling

It's no secret about the wonders of journaling, whether you have a mental illness or not. Journaling is a great way for you get your thoughts (good and bad) out on paper. If they are emotions or thoughts that make you feel bad, journaling will allow you to release your those emotions. It is also an opportunity to write down things you want to accomplish, and steps to accomplish them. Maybe you can write a letter to your loved one who passed away. Perhaps you can express to your love how much you miss them. Even though it may be difficult or brings sadness, it can be healing to remember and honor them.   

5. Spend Time Around People Who Lift Your Mood and Decrease Your Stress

The holidays are the perfect time to be around people you love so spending time with them will only cheer you up. Engage in activities that you enjoy with your family and friends, as they will help to relieve your stress level, re-energize you and give you the opportunity to be social. This can be a night out at the movies, a sleep-over or a trip to a comedy show. Whatever activities make you feel good, do just that. Have fun!