Mental Health and the Holiday Season

In theory, the festive season is a magical time, filled with love and laughter. In reality, the  holidays bring numerous pressures — gift-buying, cooking elaborate meals, cleaning, and hosting, among others. For those coping with mental health challenges, this time of year can feel especially isolating and overwhelming. Here are a few tips for reducing stress:

Be realistic: The holidays are not a time to seek perfection. The happy lives of people depicted in Hallmark movies are fictional, and the smiling faces on social media do not reflect real life. We all have struggles, even though we may pretend otherwise. Similarly, it’s often not possible to find the perfect gift or to feel at ease with family.

Stick to a budget: Before you go shopping, set a budget, and don’t deviate from it. Your worth is not determined by how much you spend on presents, or the quality of the holiday meal you prepare.

Maintain your healthy habits: Overindulgence will only make you feel worse. Make an effort to get to bed at a reasonable time; eat nourishing foods; drink plenty of water; exercise; engage in grounding exercises; and monitor your substance use.

Set boundaries: Family dynamics can be hard to navigate. Acknowledge the tensions, and accept that you can only control your own actions. In this vein, aim not to say yes, when it’s best to say no, or resentment toward loved ones will develop.

Seek professional help: Still feeling overwhelmed? It may be time to speak with a mental health professional. A therapist can help you identify specific events that trigger you, and help you create an action plan for handling them. If you’re already seeing a therapist, keep it up.