The holidays can have a truly powerful effect on our emotions, whether it be good or bad. Everyone has different family scenarios, different beliefs and different obstacles. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to keeping your mental health strong over the holidays, and I am by no means a doctor, just a girl who has spent a ton of time in therapy and working on ways to keep my mental health in tip-top condition. I’ll add some resources at the bottom of the post if you’re looking for someone to talk to, or need additional guidance. But for now, read on for some tips to help you stay on top of your mental health this holiday season so you can enjoy it to the fullest.
Using a virtual therapy platform like TalkSpace or BetterHelp can help you really stay on top of your mental health during the holiday season. If you have stressful family scenarios, are separated from your loved ones right now or dealing with any other difficult life events, preemptive therapy can make all the difference. A therapist can help you work through difficult conversations, as well as give you tips and exercises to handle anything the holidays throw at you. I always say it’s better to be proactive rather than reactive, especially when it comes to your mental health. Start chatting weekly or bi-weekly with a therapist virtually, and take comfort in knowing you’ve done everything you could to guard your mental health this season.
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. They are one of the hardest things we have to do, but one of the most beneficial for our mental health. The holidays can bring on a lot of different emotions including guilt, loneliness and frustration. Setting firm boundaries in place may feel uncomfortable at first, but in the end will be the savior of your mental health and emotional wellbeing. Set them early if you’re seeing family this holiday season, so there’s time for everyone to get used to the scenario. Remember, “no” is a complete sentence, even if you’re saying it to your mother-in-law.
Focus on the bits of joy
The holidays are supposed to be about spending time with people we love and filling our cup. Even if you do have difficult periods over the season, there’s still plenty of joy to be found. Focus on the little things that make your heart happy. It can be something as simple as the soft glow of the Christmas lights from your trees, or your favorite seasonal beverage. Expressing gratitude for these bits of joy has an incredibly positive effect on our mental health. Where there’s gratitude, there’s joy.
I know the holiday season is busy, but prioritizing time for your creative passions will help channel a lot of that anxiety and stress into something that makes you feel good. When we spend time on creativity, that energy fuels us and helps us breathe a bit. Set aside time for your creative projects, even if that means you have to skip a holiday function or two. In the end, you’ll avoid burnout and that creative energy will invigorate you throughout the season.
Maintain healthy habits
Whether that be daily walks around the neighborhood, virtual workout classes or making a big salad with dinner every night, don’t abandon all of your healthy habits until January. A lot of people look at the holiday season like a free pass when it comes to gorging on sweets or skipping their workouts. But maintaining a healthy routine will only serve you in the long run. You don’t want to wake up on January 1 feeling sluggish and unmotivated. Have your cake and eat it, too, just don’t discard those daily lifestyle choices that help you feel your best. When you’re taking care of your physical wellbeing, your mental health thrives.
If you need someone to talk to this holiday season, please call SAMHSA’s National Helpline. It is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).