By MICHELLE LOVE | Staff Writer
The holidays can be both a joyous and stressful time of year. With various family functions, stress to buy presents and other chaotic triggers, balancing one’s mental health can seem an impossible task; but with the right tools, navigating this season can be a delight.
Elizabeth Cook, founder of Mosaic Counseling & Wellness in Alabaster and Helena, leads a team of highly trained clinical counselors, life coaches and yoga instructors in an effort to offer both mental and physical healing to their clients. Their highly qualified team with of over 75 years of combined experience help people find healing, balance and better ways of dealing with life’s stressors.
“If we don’t learn ways to deal with stress and trauma, the effects become detrimental to our physical and mental health,” Cook said. “When we deal with stressful or traumatic situations, stress hormones like cortisol flood our bodies, and over time this can cause organ damage and system dysfunction, specifically to the immune system and our metabolism. Chronic stress is like a slow-acting poison in our bodies.”
The Mosaic Counseling & Wellness team suggested these helpful tips to maintain health during the holiday season:
- Be aware of your limitations. Over-committing is common this time of year and can zap the joy right out of you. We could all benefit from understanding what our “Allostatic Load” is, or your individual threshold for uncomfortable situations. Setting boundaries on the front end will save you from burnout later. Asking yourself, “If I were loving myself well right now, what would I choose to do?” can be helpful in identifying if you are taking on too much.
- Keep within a realistic budget and do not put pressure on yourself to find the “perfect” gifts. Get creative and find ways to keep yourself from accruing post-Christmas debt by sticking to your realistic budget. “There are plenty of apps like You Need a Budget that are brilliant for this,” Cook said. “Finances play a huge role in mental health.”
- Lean on your support system and have safe people available to talk to if you do get stressed, anxious or depressed. Whether this is family, friends, coworkers, or a professional, make sure you have someone to talk to when things become challenging. “Now more than ever, we need community,” Cook said. “After so much time isolated, it is time to get back with people and experience the healing power of safe community. We cannot wait to begin offering groups after the first of the year to further nurture this need. Asking for help is not weakness, it is the most courageous thing you can do when you are struggling- we were not designed to do life alone.”
- Teaching your children healthy body boundaries is vitally important. Cook said forcing kids to hug, kiss or sit on the laps of family members or friends when they do not want to reinforces that their physical discomfort is unimportant. “Listen to your children when they are uncomfortable in these situations and support them,” she said. “Consent is key for all ages. Having healthy, well-boundaried children trumps good manners in this category. Also, keep an eye on sugar crashes and too little sleep. Even the best mannered adults struggle with this.
- When dealing with difficult people or family members, Cook emphasized the importance of setting boundaries. “You don’t owe your mental health to anyone,” she said. “Setting boundaries may cause ripples, but the world isn’t going to end over them.” Be proactive instead of reactive. Have a plan for when a family member says something inappropriate, wants to give unsolicited advice or when they ask into personal details of your life that you do not feel compelled to share about. Saying things like, “It’s a personal matter, and I’d like to keep it private” or “I know you’re speaking from your experiences, but I’m hoping things work out differently for me” are entirely appropriate.
“We always like to remind people that all of your life experiences happen in an embodied way, your emotions and body are connected,” Cook said. ”Bodily addressing stress and anxiety includes practices like breath work combined with thought work that can bring you back to a place of peace and connection.” Cook said repeating “I am a safe place” or “You are loved” to yourself while deeply inhaling and exhaling can quickly bring your body back to a sense of safety.
“Learning to give yourself the love and care you so readily give to others is a life-changing practice,” Cook said.
Mosaic Counseling and Wellness opened in 2019 to provide holistic care of the mind, body and spirit to their community and even beyond. Almost two years later, this nonprofit organization has two locations and offers a variety of clinical counseling services, life coaching, yoga classes, naturopathic medicine and workshops. In early November, Mosaic Counseling & Wellness was nominated for the Shelby County Diamond Award for outstanding service to the community. For more information, visit their website Themosaicministries.org or visit their Facebook page.