Mental Health Through the Holidays

We are well on our way through the holiday season! Though these times can be ones of celebration and joy, they can also bring new challenges to those dealing with mental health concerns. Being out of routine, interacting with family and friends, changing environments, and much more may exacerbate symptoms: it’s normal, and also can dampen what is meant to be a joyful experience. For those without family or friends, holidays can create additional burdens, including intense loneliness and grief. Whether you are looking forward to the holidays, dreading them, or somewhere in between, pausing to plan can help make your experience meaningful.

  1. Take moments to pause

Through the hustle and bustle of the holidays, find moments to pause. Even a few moments of slowing down, and becoming present with your experience can support your well-being. In these moments, practice “getting with yourself” without judging, identifying, or labeling. As thoughts pop up, that’s fine. They are part of the experience of pausing, but not ALL of the experience. Slowing down means acknowledging yourself as a whole human being in this fast-paced world. 

  1. Check-in with your values 

Our values are like a compass. When we are experiencing a difficult moment, taking a step back to join with one of your freely-chosen values may be helpful in taking a step towards what’s important to you. You’re allowed to have your pain and values at the same time. Try taking a step back to see them both, then congratulate yourself for any small step towards your value. That in itself is strength.

  1. Practice holding the “holiday junk” 

We’ve all got it, and it’s probably not the elf on the shelf you take down from the attic each year. Having painful “STUF” (sensations, thoughts, urges, feelings) show up during the holidays can be challenging, and it is also the very stuff that makes us human. As you live out each day of this season, practice holding your experiences lightly, and remember that you are not alone in having STUF to hold. 

  1. Unwrap some gratitude 

Taking a moment to savor something meaningful in your experience (even if it’s you willing to engage in this practice) can support training your brain to handle tough challenges. Try something like this: “I am aware I am alive. I am aware of (insert gratitude here).” 

  1. Create a routine and be flexible with it

Creating a schedule, and prioritizing certain activities, such as self-care and meals can be helpful in managing your time and keeping stress low. Being flexible with how your day goes can also support well-being. Try not to get too “caught in the weeds,” and return to mindfulness practices when you feel stuck! 

  1. Reach out

Whether it’s friends, family, or your mental health provider, sharing your experiences of the holidays and how it’s impacting your mental health can help remind your brain and body that it’s not alone! While you set out on this quite possible “literal” journey of the holidays, remember that hope and help are possible.