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Avert Holiday Anxiety and Depression with Self-Care

NHA Communications Team  |  December 17, 2021
The holiday season is upon us and with it, for some, comes the stressors that create anxiety and depression.
Keeping mental health in the forefront of your mind is a good idea for adults and children alike. A great way to keep your mental and emotional focus is through self-care, says Kali Thorpe, a seventh and eighth-grade ELA (English Language Arts) teacher at Detroit Merit Charter Academy.

“Self-care isn’t just a buzz word for bubble baths and pedicures -- it can be those things -- but, more importantly, it is about caring for your mind and body,” Thorpe said. “It’s the state of your physical and mental health.”
Dealing with complex emotions or working through an anxiety episode can be challenging, so using the correct coping skills can be beneficial.

Yawn at Anxiety
Many are aware of the numerous breathing exercises that help reduce anxiety, but Thorpe suggests another fun activity: the yawn.

“Fake a yawn, the whole thing, the stretching arms, the big, wide mouth, until you actually have a real yawn happen,” Thorpe said. “Just like deep-breathing exercises, yawning activates your vagus nerve, which increases your parasympathetic system.”

The parasympathetic system is responsible for that “rest and digest” mode in our body, Thorpe said. We don’t yawn unless our body feels safe and at ease, so yawning tricks your body back into this space of comfort.
Thorpe offers numerous other options to activate your vagus nerve:
  • Cold Exposure (place an ice pack on the middle of your chest) 
  • Hum or sing (similar to the yawning trick -- we don’t usually do these things unless we’re at ease)
  • Meditate – find a quiet place to be alone with your thoughts
  • Draw a figure-eight in the air with your fingers and follow it with your eyes
  • Use a weighted blanket or weighted stuffed animal to help calm yourself
Managing Depression
Depression is more than general sadness that arises from a specific trigger like failing a test, losing a promotion, or going through a breakup. Depression often prompts a significant change in a person’s attitude and behavior.

Thorpe said people suffering from depression may isolate themselves by withdrawing from friends, family, and social events.

“They might draw inward, stop doing hobbies that brought them joy before, feel hopeless, and even have a change in appetite,” Thorpe said.

Although diagnosing depression is best left up to trained medical professionals, there are helpful tips to get back on track if you need a little help.
  •  Keep a routine schedule throughout your day
  • Limit screen time before bed to let your brain relax
  • Use a sun lamp if you suffer from seasonal depression
  • Use lavender as a soothing agent, whether in lotions or aromatherapy
About National Heritage Academies:
Detroit Merit Charter Academy is part of NHA, a network of 98 tuition-free, public charter schools across nine states, serving more than 60,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. For more information, visit