The holiday season is known as a time for gatherings and cheer. People commonly visit with family and friends numerous times for parties and large get-togethers. Some people look forward to the holiday season, but others may not feel as jolly during this time.
Caring for your mental health is a priority, especially during a season full of socializing, gift-giving and traveling. You’re not alone if you find yourself feeling down during this season. Many people express feeling high levels of anxiety or stress surrounding the holidays.
Learn how you can manage your mental and emotional health during the holidays and get the most out of this time of the year.
Why It’s Important to Prioritize Your Mental Health During the Holiday Season
Mental health is something you may continually tend to throughout the year, and some individuals see an uptick in their symptoms during the holidays. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), around 64% of people report the holiday season making their mental health conditions worse.
The reason many experience an increase in sadness or anxiety during this time of year is associated with the holiday blues. The “holiday blues” describes feeling extra stressed because of unrealistic expectations around the holiday season. Some common feelings associated with the holiday blues include:
- Sense of loss
- Isolation or loneliness
Overcoming the holiday blues and finding effective methods for managing your mental health are essential. Easing your stress and looking at the holiday season with a new perspective can help you find joy in this season and make your way to the new year.
10 Ways to Manage Your Mental Health During the Holidays
Whether you need help managing your mental health during the holidays because of upcoming parties, shopping for presents or preparing large meals for loved ones, try these tips to make your holiday season more enjoyable. Explore these 10 ways to handle the holidays and your mental illness safely and productively.
1. Remember What Really Matters
The holidays can be a hectic time for driving and shopping. With numerous people trying to shop for gifts and traveling out of town to visit loved ones, the lines at the stores and the traffic con the roads can be continuous. When the long lines and never-ending traffic start to get to you, it’s important to remember what the holidays mean to you and keep tabs on what really matters to you.
Take these moments to reflect on the good things that are happening in your life. Remind yourself that it’s simply a long line or a traffic build-up, or try connecting with someone if you’re in line at the store in the spirit of the season.
2. Learn to Accept Imperfection
Expectations around the holiday season are high for hosting the best gathering, giving the best present or feeling the happiest during this time of year. People may feel less-than or become stressed about living up to those high holiday expectations. It’s helpful to accept that everything during this time will not be perfect in your eyes, but a lot of things can be enjoyable. It’s all right if things don’t go exactly how you planned — imperfection is normal.
3. Shower Others With Kindness
While you can’t control how others act during the holidays, you can choose to show kindness to others. Rather than becoming angry or irritated, work on viewing the situation through a new lens and responding with kindness even in tough situations. Be courteous to store staff, or reach out to loved ones you enjoy spending time with.
4. Think of Your Resolutions
Some New Year’s resolutions may seem too big to take on, but starting with smaller and more manageable goals can be easy to accomplish and not stress about. Small New Year’s goals like adding more fruit or veggies to your diet, going outside more or taking more time for yourself are small goals you can include for the new year. As a bonus, these manageable resolutions could be mental-health boosters.
5. Set Aside Time for Self-Care
When things become too overwhelming, take a step back and take some time for yourself. Packing your holiday season with numerous gatherings and plans may sound fun at first, but setting aside time for self-care is essential when managing your mental health during this time. Reserve a weekend or two for yourself to enjoy your hobbies or pastimes you love.
6. Give Yourself a Spending Limit
Something that can contribute to holiday stress is money. Many aspects of the holiday season revolve around buying gifts or buying food or beverages for gatherings. It’s helpful to set a budget for yourself during this time of year so you don’t have to stress over money.
7. Carefully Watch Your Mood
Being mindful of how you feel will help you steer away from the holiday blues. You may be in the spirit of putting friends and family before yourself with gift-giving and socializing, but staying in tune with your feelings can help keep your symptoms of any mental health problems less severe. Know what makes you happy and ensure you make those things a part of your daily routine.
8. Ask for Help
Reaching out for help during the holidays is one of the best things you can do if you’re struggling with your mental health. It’s effective to speak with a person you trust, like a friend, family member or your therapist, about your current feelings. You’ll discover that feeling down or stressed during the holiday season is normal, and you can discuss tools to overcome the negative feelings.
9. Keep a Regular Sleep, Eat and Exercise Schedule
Caring for your physical health can make an impact on the state of your mental health. Things like exercising and getting enough rest help your mind stay healthy and make a positive impact on your mental and emotional health. Ensuring you keep up with your similar sleep routine, diet and exercise schedule can help you feel organized and ready to take on the holiday season and manage your mental health.
10. Practice Relaxation
Practicing relaxation techniques is an excellent method for managing your mental health. Activities like meditation, scheduling a massage or taking a yoga class can help you unwind and enjoy a moment of peace during your day. Even a few rounds of deep breathing before you head into a store or family gathering can help you center yourself.