Mental Health and the Holidays: 7 Tips to Get Through the Holiday Season

Santa hat on wooden rack with a wooden sign that says "GOOD VIBES ONLY"

Here we are with another Holiday season upon us! Caring for your mental health is a priority, especially during the holiday season. You are not alone if you feel down during this time. Many people feel stress, anxiety, a sense of sadness and grief surrounding holiday times. Here are 7 tips for managing your mental health over the holiday season.

#1 Set Aside Time for Self Care

When things become overwhelming or very stressful it is important to take a break, breath and make some time for yourself. We often put ourselves last and everybody’s needs before our own. Any people pleasers reading this? Reserve a period of time just for yourself to wind down, enjoy your hobbies and other past times you often set aside. If carving out this time is a big challenge, I would encourage attempting five-minute breaks throughout the day to give your body and mind small moments throughout the day to relax and breath.

#2 Importance of Relaxation

Practicing relaxation can help manage your mental health during a busy holiday. Activities like yoga, massage, deep breathing, and meditation can help you decompress and unwind. Using these activities during the holiday can help you enjoy a moment of peace during your day. Finding moments to take a few deep breathings before you head into the next family gathering can help ground and centre yourself. Here are some free mindfulness resources for you to have a look at.

#3 Focus on the Body

Caring for your physical health through exercise, good sleep and proper nutrition can make all the difference during stressful times. Moving your body, exercising, stretching and doing yoga can help your mind stay grounded and calm. Exercise and body movement can also help improve sleep over the holidays. Making an effort to balance nutrition like limiting sweet treats and reducing alcohol can make a big difference in overall mental health. We often indulge with baked goods, snacks and wonderful holiday drinks. Keeping an eye on how much sugar and alcohol you are consuming can help regulate the highs and lows of your mood.

#4 Reach Out For Support

Reaching out for help during the holiday can improve your mental health. Find someone you trust and feel comfortable with, like a friend, family member or a therapist to talk about how you are feeling. You can discuss tools to overcome the stress, worry and help discover that you are not alone. Often, we feel like a burden on others if we reach out. I am here to remind you that you are not a burden. Having a sense of connection can help to feel reassured and supported. A sense of connection can help build hope and encouragement.

#5 Learn to Say No

If you are feeling overwhelmed and pressured to engage in family and social activities learn how to comfortably say “no”. Prioritizing the most important activities and scheduling get togethers after the holidays could be two ways to attempt setting personal boundaries and limitations in an already busy holiday. Setting boundaries can be a challenge if we feel pressure, obligations or have high expectations of ourselves. Family dynamics can be complex, acknowledging and accepting that you can only control your part is important. If you need to find ways to limit your time or exposure to certain people or places do so. You could plan self care after a family gathering to release the intense emotions you may be left with after the gathering. A book I would recommend for further reading on how to say no is called Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How To Say No, Take Control of Your Life by Doctor Henry Cloud and Doctor John Townsend.

#6 Manage Disappointment

Sometimes, lets face it, holidays don’t work out the way we want or expect. For many of us this holiday still won’t be what they may have been prior to the pandemic. This will be disappointing for many families both the adults and the kids! It’s important to acknowledge that disappointment. Give everyone a safe space to share feelings and be heard. Validating emotions goes along way in feeling heard and understood. This validation can foster a sense of connection, belonging and feeling that we are in this together and will support one another.

#7 Practice Gratitude

Giving gratitude is crucial for good overall mental health. Did you know that gratitude stimulates your neurotransmitters, the hormones that bring energy and happiness into your living experiences? Practice a good routine on a daily basis of finding gratitude during the holiday season. Make some time every day to reflect and think about all the things you are grateful for in your life. Shifting your mindset to that of gratitude can shift your overall mental health. Krystie Ware discusses the importance of mindset very well in her book Synergize Your Health: The 6 Elements for Greater Vitality and Joy. I found her book very helpful in challenging my mindset!

As you practice gratefulness, you may surprise yourself with how you feel. Expressing gratitude has its benefits, for example gratefulness fosters empathy, reduces aggression, improves self esteem and increases mental strength.

In Conclusion

The Holiday Season is almost here. Finding ways to manage your mental health can go along way in your overall health and wellbeing. Spending time with family and friends can be a joy and very stressful at the same time. I hope these 7 tips can be useful to you over this holiday season. Did any of them stick out for you? Are you doing any of these already? Is there one that you could do more of? Being Thankful may be the best gift to yourself and to others. Why not give it freely this holiday season!

I wish everyone a Happy Holiday Season!