It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, a time for happiness and cozy quality times with your loved ones … but let’s face it: sometimes, the holiday season can be very, very hard.
From finances and travel to personal boundaries and difficult relationship dynamics, the holiday season can really take a toll on us sometimes. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, read on for tips for self-care during the holiday season and managing your mental health during the busy end-of-the-year rush.
Self-care tips for the holidays
Set your boundaries and stick to them.
The holidays often come with a lot of expectations, so setting boundaries can go a long way in protecting your peace.
From not dedicating your entire winter break to family members who weigh you down to establishing a realistic budget that won’t leave you in the hole, establishing places to draw the line can help both you and those around you better recognize your limits. This might take some advocating on your end, and it can be scary depending on your family dynamics, but establishing these boundaries and sticking to them can help you prioritize your needs and energy during a time that is already stressful and hectic.
Avoid unrealistic expectations.
Ironic as it might sound, another major reason that the holidays can be so stressful is because of all the festivities involved. If you come from a background where extravagant celebrations are the norm, you might feel the pressure to overdeliver, which can be extremely taxing on your mental health during the holidays.
For example, you might be feeling the pressure and comparing your holiday parties to the ones you see on social media, or feel like you need to get everyone extravagant gifts when you can’t afford them. To protect yourself from this unnecessary holiday stress, focus on what you can realistically do in the time that you have so you don’t stretch yourself too thin.
Create your own traditions.
With that said, the holiday season should be about creating joy, so if your old traditions aren’t serving you, it might be time to make some new ones!
Think about the parts of the holiday season that you really enjoy — is it the time spent with loved ones? The decorating? The delicious foods? — then make some traditions that are based around this. You can do this with yourself, your friends, your own family, anyone who you want to celebrate with. This gives you a special way to celebrate the holidays and carve out your own space for things you love.
Don’t forget to take care of your physical health as well.
In addition to its toll on your mental health, the winter months can also be notoriously hard on your physical health. The combination of cold weather, shorter days, and an excess of holiday goodies can all add up to prolonged periods of low movement and generally poor choices.
To better take care of your physical health during the holidays, make an intentional effort to keep on track with healthy habits as much as you can. For example, make sure you’re drinking enough water and make mindful choices when it comes to your diet. It’s also a good idea to find ways to increase your physical activity since exercise may help boost your mood.
Finally, it’s also worth addressing any potential nutritional deficiencies as a way to take better care of yourself during the holidays. For example, some studies have shown links between Vitamin D insufficiencies and mental health issues like depression and seasonal affective disorder, which some people also deal with in addition to regular holiday stress.
Spend time doing things that make you happy.
We get it: it’s easy to get so overwhelmed during the holidays that you just want to turn your brain off at the end of a long day. But rather than falling into the endless cycle of social media scrolling or mindless TV binging, consider disconnecting and instead spending that time doing something else that makes you happy! Dedicating the downtime that you do have to hobbies like reading, doing crafts, taking a long bath, or taking a brisk nature walk with a loved one can serve your mental health a lot better than disconnecting while staring at a screen.
Create a quiet space for yourself when you need it.
Amidst all the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping and parties, you might benefit from carving out a quiet place just for yourself when things get truly overwhelming so that you can decompress and focus on your own needs for a bit.
For example, if you’re hosting the holiday festivities, make your room a safe place to retreat to when things get too hard. If you’re visiting others, consider scheduling time for a quiet walk or drive with yourself or a close loved one to decompress.
Talk to a therapist and/or seek a support group.
Remember, you are not alone here, especially during this difficult time of the year. The holidays are hard for many people … and if you’re already dealing with another condition like depression or anxiety, it can be even harder. According to the National Alliance On Mental Illness, 64% of people with mental illnesses report that their conditions get worse during the holiday season.
Make sure to schedule time to talk to your mental health professional during this stressful time as an important means of self-care. If you want to find a community that gets it, look for support groups. You can even do your therapy sessions and support group meetings online, which makes it easier to find support if you’re on the road or have a schedule that’s too packed to allow for in-office visits.
During the holidays, you probably have a lot on your mind and very little spare time. But finding ways to practice self-care can help you recharge where you can, honor your mental health, and even allow you to find some joy in such a busy and chaotic period.