Although it’s important to prioritize mental health year-round, it can be difficult to make time for self-care during the holidays. If you are struggling this season and it seems like everyone around you is in high spirits, know that you’re not alone: 38% of people report feeling more stressed around the holidays due to financial burdens, shortage of time, and family get-togethers.
The holidays can be especially difficult for people who have a mental illness: 64% say that their symptoms intensify at this time of year. Moreover, many people who have lost a loved one are dealing with deep sadness and grief during the holidays. These are just a few of the reasons why it’s helpful to learn strategies to care for your mental health around this time. Here are some simple ways that you can prioritize mental wellness during the holiday season.
Allow Yourself to Feel Your Emotions
If you’re not feeling your best, try to acknowledge and accept your emotions as they are. Around the holidays, there’s sometimes a pressure to act joyful and match the energy of your friends or family. Be gentle with yourself and remain mindful of your emotions rather than ignoring or masking them. It’s easy to get swept up in everyday tasks at this time of year and put emotional wellness on the backburner. Being aware of your feelings can help you manage your mental health and recognize when you need a break or extra support.
Set Boundaries and Communicate Your Needs
Between family gatherings and gift shopping, the holidays can be overwhelming, especially if you’re coping with mental illness. You may not feel up to participating in every activity that you’re invited to, and that’s okay! Giving yourself permission to set limits and say no can minimize stress and allow you to have more time for yourself. It also helps to communicate your needs and your schedule with your loved ones so that they can plan accordingly, and avoid additional conflict or stress.
Recognize Your Triggers
Psychologist Elsa Ronningstam recommends keeping an eye out for triggers during the holidays, like certain memories or stressful events that tend to be a recurring pattern every year. Knowing your triggers can help you plan ahead and reduce their effects. Finding small ways to alleviate pressure, like online gift shopping or asking guests ahead of time to help with meal prep, can also help manage stress.
Reach Out for Support
Lean on friends and family members you trust for support, or reach out to a mental health professional. Talking to loved ones about what you’re going through can help you feel validated and heard. It can also provide an opportunity for them to help, whether that’s providing a listening ear or helping with tasks like shopping or preparing to host. It might even encourage them to share their feelings with you – you might find that others are having a similar experience as you during the holiday season, and are reluctant to talk about it.