The holidays can be a rough time for your mental health. Winter can make people more susceptible to depression (check out my Seasonal Depression Survival Guide) and then on top of that, the holiday season can bring on tons of extra stress. I absolutely adore the holiday season but I always have to be extra aware of my mental health and make it a priority. The holiday season combines lots of stressful things like traveling, family and spending money all together and it can be tough for anyone. I hope this mental health holiday survival guide will give you some ideas for managing your mental health during holiday chaos.
Holiday Bucket List
If you’re someone that dreads the holidays or has had negative experiences around this time of year in the past try and plan some things you can look forward to. I always plan to do something fun with my friends around Thanksgiving (this year we’re doing a Harry Potter themed dinner). I also really like decorating my house by myself while eating fancy snacks and watching Christmas movies. It doesn’t matter what it is just plan something that you can look forward to enjoying. If you’re family stresses you out plan on taking yourself to see a new movie that you want to see or go get a holiday manicure. If you don’t have any money or aren’t going to be around family try to find an organization or community project to be involved in.
If you’re dealing with a loss or just tend to get depressed around the holiday season call in some extra support. Let friends and family know if you’re having a hard time and tell them what they can do to help you. I always schedule extra time with my therapist because even though I love this time of year I also tend to get really stressed out which can make my anxiety worse. Right now I get all of my therapy from BetterHelp. They allow you to communicate with your therapist by email, phone or skype which is perfect if you’re traveling for the holidays. Let your therapist know that you are concerned about your mental health around the holiday season and share any past difficulties you’ve had around the holidays in the past.
End of Year Inventory
I love to take time around the holidays to reflect on the last year and write down everything I am grateful for. This helps me get in a space of gratitude and helps me get really freaking excited for the year ahead. If you don’t have a journal now would be the perfect time to start one. Anytime I’m going through something stressful I take time each day to write down all of the good things I have in my life. It’s easy to let stress distract you from what you have in your life that is so freaking great. For me gratitude helps me manage my depression and helps me stay in a positive mood. Take this time to write out some new goals for yourself and brainstorm ideas for new years resolutions. I get really excited about the new year because it feels like a fresh start.
The holidays can be really expensive and that can add another layer of stress to this time of year. I have a set of holiday budgeting sheets to help you plan out how much money you need for travel, gifts, food etc that you can get for free below. Writing out exactly what you need to buy can help you figure out if there are any expenses you can cut and if there are any ways you can save money. If money is stressing you ask your family if you could do a $5 or $10 gift limit this year or suggest a Secret Santa so everyone only has to buy for one person. My family tends to go light on gifts and focus more on having a meal together and spending time together instead. This helps keep our holidays more lowkey because we’re not spending much money and there’s not the stress of trying to find everyone the “perfect gift”. For more holiday budget tips check out my post here.
Get In The Spirit
If you can’t beat them join them. Find something that you actually like to do around the holidays that can help you get in the spirit. Make some cookies or put up some decorations. My brother and I have a campfire in our yard every year on Christmas eve where we have smores and spiked hot chocolate. A lot of our friends will stop by and it is a nice and laid back holiday tradition. Get into the spirit and start your own holiday tradition with your friends and family.
Anytime I have a lot going on or I add extra exercise to my routine. Dealing with the stress of family and traveling during the holidays can be a lot so I always make sure I bring my running gear home with me. I make jogging everyday part of my routine while I’m visiting my parents which helps keep me in a good mood. If I don’t exercise I end up eating a lot of my Mom’s baked goods and feeling like an actual sloth. I always get up first thing on Christmas morning and jog a few miles and sometimes my brother even comes with me. We also take our dogs around my parent’s neighborhood to look at Christmas lights. They live in one of those crazy subdivisions where people put up an insane amount of Christmas lights and decorations. If you can’t get into running (I don’t blame you) taking a walk can be a nice way to get some more low key exercise.
Take a Break From Family
I just recorded an entire podcast episode about dealing with difficult people at the holidays. You can check it out over on Podbean or iTunes. Plot a great escape and take yourself out to lunch or just go hang out in a coffee shop. Family is great but alone time is also important. Our family holidays can feel really chaotic and our family is not even that big. It’s hard to have everyone under one roof for an extended amount of time. My brother and I will sneak out and get a happy hour drink somewhere or go and take the dogs to the beach. Sometimes being stuck in the house with your entire family can make you feel cabin feverish. If you don’t have any family to spend the holidays with check out my guide for spending the holidays alone.
I use affirmations every day to help get me into a positive mindset. I went ahead and made a list of holiday affirmations and if you like them you can grab the printable version below. I say affirmations any time I start to feel myself getting heavy and negative. I use them to lift my mood and to focus on the thoughts I know make me feel powerful, strong and happy. For more on how I use affirmations and gratitude to manage my mental health go check out my podcast episode here.
I am so thankful to live this life
I spread a message of love and joy to everyone I meet
I love to give and receive love
This will be a great day
I make sure every day is filled with joy
I am so freaking blessed
I love and accept every part of myself
I forgive myself for past mistakes and I’m ready to let it go
Things are always working out for me this time of year
My future is bright and I’m so excited about it
My joy is contagious and I spread it to every damn person I meet
I am un freaking stoppable
I choose appreciation over frustration
My home feels loving and warm
There is so much beauty around me and I have so much to be thankful for
I have everything I need
I have an unlimited amount of love to give and share
I am so blessed to live this life
I’m so glad for the good energy of the holiday season
Good things ALWAYS happen to me this time of year
Everyone around me feels peaceful and loved
I have so much to celebrate
I feel the unlimited loving spirit of Christmas
I am so freaking loved and appreciated
Creativity always flows to me this time of year
I freaking THRIVE during the holidays
The holiday energy makes me unstoppable
There is an unlimited amount of good energy all around me
It can be hard to keep up your normal routine with everything going on around the holiday season. Make sure you stay on top of any medication that you take. Set an extra reminder on your phone if you need to. I’m actually really bad at remembering to take my medication when I’m traveling and out of my normal routine.
If the holidays are a stressful or difficult time for you to consider giving up alcohol. I have a podcast episode you can check out about how I decided to cut back on drinking for my mental health here. I recently cut back from going to happy hour three times a week to drinking once a month. For many of us, drinking can make symptoms of depression and anxiety worse. It can be difficult to give up drinking during the holidays because it feels like alcohol is everywhere. If you think giving up.
If the holidays are getting you down spend some time giving back to other people in your community. Send cards to kids in the hospital or to soldiers who are away for the holiday. Find an organization you feel passionately about and go volunteer in person. Giving back to others can take your mind off of the things that are getting you down. There are so many people in your community that could use your help. Find a way that feels really meaningful to you to contribute.
Change Your Mindset
I’m going to give you a little bit of tough love right now. Most people that hate the holidays are unbelievably negative. Find something you like about the season or the time of year. It doesn’t have to be related to the normal holiday traditions. It can be anything that you enjoy doing. The point is to stop focusing on what you don’t like and start focusing on what you do like. Try making a gratitude list twice a day or keep a running list of all the good things that happen to you every day. I keep one in my planner every day because I want to train my brain to notice and focus on the good things in my life. Check out my podcast episode about my favorite gratitude exercise here.
Remember Holidays Don’t Last Forever
Sometimes your just plain miserable around the holidays and that’s OK. Life can deal out things that are hard or unfair around the holidays and it completely sucks. Remember that this isn’t going to last forever. No matter how shitty you feel those feelings are temporary. Just take extra good care of yourself while you’re processing your feelings and wait it out. The holiday season always goes by really fast so it’ll all be over before you know it and you can get back to life as usual.
I hope this holiday mental health survival guide gives you some ideas for managing your mental health this holiday season. I have a ton of other posts about depression and anxiety you can read if you’re looking for more resources. I also have a holiday mental health planner you can download for free here. I hope no matter what you celebrate that you are able to find some moments of happiness this holiday season.
I am not a licensed therapist or mental health professional. If you are suffering from a major disorder and need treatment please seek the help of a professional. If you need help finding a mental health care provider call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit BetterHelp to talk to a certified therapist online at an affordable price. This post contains affiliate links, you can read my full disclosure policy here.
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