How to Take Care of Your Mental Health During the Holidays 

Common mental health concerns appear more often during the holidays than any other time of the year: the holiday blues, seasonal affective disorder, and a worsening of mental health symptoms.

The holiday blues refer to feeling more sadness during the months of November and December. The holidays can be a reminder of lost loved ones or may make some feel lonely if they don’t have many connections. The sadness ends with the New Year.

Seasonal affective disorder is a mood disorder marked by a return of depressive symptoms at the same time each year. For many, this time starts in the Fall and Winter and ends when Spring arrives. It is triggered by getting less sunshine as the days are shorter.

How is Mental Illness Different?

Many others have a mental health condition they cope with all year long, like depression or anxiety. According to research, 64% of people with a mental illness reported their symptoms are “somewhat” or “a lot” worse during the holidays. Statistics also show 40% of adults have high anxiety due to the many social demands of the holiday season.

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at how to take care of your mental health during the holidays.

How to Take Care of Your Mental Health During the Holidays

During the holiday season, you may feel anxious and stressed about what to get family members, how to be in a festive mood, decorating your house, or traveling long distances.

Your mental health does not have to suffer this holiday season. There are many things you can do to take care of your mental health and avoid increasing symptoms.

Here’s how to how to take care of your mental health during the holidays.

Stay Physically Healthy

Our country is still dealing with COVID and COVID variants, as well as the usual viruses. The holidays are a time where your social activity may increase and exposure to potential viruses. You won’t have to worry about this if you protect yourself adequately. Follow guidelines for being in groups of people.

Physical health influences mental health and vice versa. When you are sick or injured, your mood naturally reflects it. Feeling overjoyed when you have the flu seems impossible. Even having a headache, stomachache, or sniffles can make every task more stressful.

Do whatever you can to take better care of your body. Meet with your doctor for a checkup, take vitamins and supplements, eat healthy most days so you can splurge at a party, and don’t do anything that you know will make you feel worse. For example, avoid drinking alcohol or using drugs and don’t go without sleep.

Increase Self-Care Activities

Self-care is something you should be doing all year, but it’s important to increase activities to better balance mental health during the holidays. Self-care is the practice of taking specific actions that promote positive health. Your overall health must be cared for so you can be your best at work, home, and socially. Here are some ideas on how to take care of your physical, mental, social, spiritual, and emotional self.

  • Get plenty of sleep each night without interruptions.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, even if it is very light exercise.
  • Eat healthy foods with nutritional value.
  • Connect with friends and family who make you feel better. Avoid those who make you feel worse.
  • Do things that stimulate you mentally, like reading books or working puzzles.
  • Pay attention to how you talk to yourself. Anytime you catch yourself thinking something negative, immediately replace it with a compliment about yourself.
  • Engage in spiritual or religious activities that make you feel good. There is plenty of research that supports those with religious and spiritual connections to lead a healthier lifestyle.
  • Find healthy ways to process your emotions. Examples include journaling, blogging, painting, or music. You may also work with an individual therapist who can help you create a self-care plan.
  • Practice relaxation techniques daily. Yoga, meditation, prayer, massage, and deep breathing are excellent activities to try.
  • Volunteer in the community. You may feel you do not have time to volunteer during the holidays. If this is the case, try replacing some of the less meaningful activities with volunteer activities. The internal feeling of reward that comes from helping others is worth it. So, instead of attending that mid-week office party with people you see every day, let them know you are already committed to volunteer work.

Utilize Your Support System

If you don’t currently have a support system, that’s okay. You can build one today. During the holidays, you may want to isolate yourself and avoid social interactions. However, this can lead to loneliness and negative thinking. You may also become overwhelmed with too many responsibilities and commitments during the season. These are the perfect times to call on your support system, made up of people who can be there for you when you need them.

A support team doesn’t need to include many people, just a handful eager to listen to you and help you cope with the unexpected. Supports may include pastors, friends, family members, neighbors, and teachers. Mental health therapists should always be included on your team since they know specific tools and techniques to boost your mood. You may also attend a community-based support group where you can get and give peer support.

Remember What Is Most Important

The holiday season is temporary. Don’t risk your mental health for something that will be over in just weeks. Keep your focus on staying healthy, even if that means declining invitations to parties or other social activities. Years from now, and maybe next year, no one will remember if you attended the party and whether you had fun.

Many people will admire you for putting your mental health first. You may become a role model for those who also have mental health disorders.

Attending parties, spending too much money, over-eating and drinking, and losing sleep will not give you the fresh start you deserve in the new year. Plus, these should not be the reason for the season. Avoid the stressors so when January arrives, you feel happy, refreshed, and eager to succeed.

Focus on what is most important: gratitude, thankfulness, peace, love, hope, and of course, you.