How to Stay Mentally Healthy During the Holidays

A woman standing and smiling in the snowThe winter holiday season creates many expectations for a time of joy. Television commercials, stores, online advertisements, all show images of happy families and friends celebrating together and enjoying the holiday celebrations.

This isn’t the reality for everyone, though. For many people the holidays are filled with sadness, anxiety or pain. This time of year can bring up difficult memories or bring us into contact with people who we would rather not see. It is especially tough for those who have lost a loved one or are going through difficult times. For some, family get-togethers can bring up painful memories or fears. Others might feel very alone and isolated at this time of year, with limited resources and support.

No matter what occasion or holiday you are celebrating, remember to focus on your mental health. Get in touch with people who really care about you: family, friends, colleagues or church members. These simple tips on how to stay mentally healthy during the holidays will come in handy for anyone who might be feeling a bit overwhelmed or stressed during the holidays. Whether you’re dealing with a major life change or you’re a busy parent with an overwhelming to-do list, don’t forget yourself. Your mental health matters.

How to Stay Mentally Healthy During the Holidays

Take Care of Yourself - First and foremost, make time to look after yourself, both physically and mentally. The holidays can be a busy time for many, but don’t put your health on the back burner. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are still so important, and staying healthy physically will help you deal with any mental stress or anxiety that might come up.

Set Realistic Expectations - It can be easy to set the bar really high when it comes to expectations over the holidays. But be realistic. Be easy on yourself and try not to put too much on your plate by over-committing or over-planning. Keeping things low-key and simple will make the holidays more enjoyable and put less stress on your mental health. Put your time and energy into the activities and people you enjoy the most.

Take Time to do the Things You Enjoy - Decide what it is you enjoy about the holidays and make time to do those things. Maybe it’s caroling, going to look at the lights, or attending your place of worship. It might even be seeing friends or family, or a big feast. Think about what particular things make you happy and set aside time for those.

An overhead picture of a holiday food gathering

Accept Help - Many people pile way too much on their plates over the holidays. If someone is willing and able to help you, take them up on their offer. There could be a variety of ways you need help, from cooking to childcare to emotional support, so don’t be afraid to reach out if need be and accept help from those who are able to assist.

Reach Out To Others - Likewise, if you know someone who might be having a difficult time around the holidays, reach out to them by offering your support. Whether it’s physical company or just an ear to listen to, the holidays can be hard for many due to various circumstances - i.e. a loss of a loved one, breakdown of marriage - and knowing they have support and love can make all the difference. You’ll also feel better about yourself knowing you are helping someone else.

Surround Yourself with Good People - Sometimes, you can’t always control who you spend time with if there is a big gathering. But balance that by spending time with supportive and loving people who lift you up. Minimize any time spent with people who have caused you pain in the past or who cause you anxiety. It’s okay to pass on engagements if you don’t feel comfortable being around certain people. Your well-being is most important.

Find Reasons to Celebrate - If you’re dreading the upcoming holidays, search for a reason to celebrate. You might have had a particularly rough year with personal relationships, but look for that one good person who offered you support. Celebrate that friendship. Or perhaps you have recently ended a toxic relationship. Be thankful for how this will improve your life and mental well-being. Celebrating something as simple as having a roof over your head, a warm bed and healthy food can help you appreciate life on a new level.

Happy holidays!