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  • Writer's pictureMichaela Cooper

4 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health Over the Holidays

Updated: Jan 8

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The holidays are notoriously not the easiest on your mental health; you can read more about that here. While the holidays can bring joy, happiness, and excitement they can also bring sadness, dread, and anxiety. As we go into this holiday season remember that it’s okay to feel your feelings. Your feelings are valid and you’re definitely not alone in the holiday slump. So many people struggle mentally during the holidays! Luckily there are ways to avoid falling too deep into the slump! Keep reading for some tips and tricks to improve your mental health over the next few months.

Holidays = Family Time + BOUNDARIES

The holidays bring with them the expectation of gathering around a fire and enjoying time with your family, right? But as we discussed last week not all family time is enjoyable. So how do we combat umm…unappealing…family time? BOUNDARIES! It’s amazing what setting some boundaries can do for your mental health. I know it can be difficult setting boundaries with family, you can find a whole blog about it here. The expectation around holidays should be that you enjoy yourself! Here are a few boundaries that might help out this season:

  • You can be firm and kind at the same damn time!

I.e. “I really love spending time with you guys and for me to continue having a good time I need you to please not make anymore comments about (insert here.)

  • Give yourself permission to avoid or leave mentally draining situations.

I.e. “I appreciate your invitation, but I won’t be able to attend this year. I hope your party goes perfectly!” or “I really wish I could stay but something came up. I hope you all have a great time!”

  • Sometimes setting a boundary isn’t enough; in these cases establish and follow through with consequences.

I.e. “I’m having so much fun but if you keep sneaking treats/presents/money to the kids we will have to leave.” Then FOLLOW THROUGH (probably the hardest part but you got this!)

The Holidays are Expensive AND Shouldn't Revolve About Gifts

The expenses that come along with the holidays are stressful. While there is sometimes no way around financial stress there are ways to ease the burden. Remember that the holidays are not about shiny gifts and expensive presents! While gifts are a love language, they’re not the only love language! Show your loved ones appreciation in a way that relieves some of that financial stress!

  • Gift a playlist of songs that remind you of them

  • Offer to host a cozy movie night

  • Take something off their plate i.e. dishes, laundry, grocery shopping. It’s a good idea to ask what they would like help with!

  • Cook or bake for them, who doesn’t love homemade cookies! (Pro Tip: Tollhouse has the word house in it so I’m pretty sure that counts as homemade.)

The Holidays are DARK…Find the Bright Side!

The lack of sun during the winter months can cause all kinds of changes in your body that could cause or worsen symptoms of depression. Ideally if you live somewhere with minimal sunlight you could visit somewhere sunny, warm, or tropical. Unfortunately that isn’t realistic for many of us. Thankfully we live in a time where if we can’t find sunlight we can make some! The Mayo Clinic suggests artificial lights to help your body get back on track. Along with a light box you can try using sunscreen! The senses it stimulates might help remind you of summertime and sunshine!

Holidays Can Make You Feel Alone AND…That Sucks

Grieving can be hard no matter what time of year but during the holidays there are constant reminders of family and loved ones. This can make an already hard journey that much harder. I wish there was a magical way to make grieving easier, wouldn’t that be nice? Unfortunately until someone discovers magic we’re left to handle it on our own. A few ways to help manage feelings of grief and loss over the holidays include:

  • Remember it’s okay to feel your feelings! (This is the second time I’ve written this so you know it’s important!) Allow yourself space and time to feel your grief.

  • There’s nothing wrong with choosing what activities you can handle and skipping the ones that could be too hard. You’re not obligated to attend gatherings or activities, especially if they could be triggering. People will understand!...and it doesn’t really matter if they don’t. Your healing journey is YOUR healing journey.

  • Find support! You are not alone in dealing with your grief. Reach out to family, friends, your therapist, loss support groups, etc. You don’t have to feel alone. Finding support can be hard but you can do hard things!

  • Honor old traditions, honor memories, and create new ones! It can be easy to fall into the mindset of “we’ve always done it this way.” Take time to honor those traditions and memories then adapt them in a way that is realistic for you.

The Holidays Can be Tough, but So Are You!

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that you are strong. Take some time to reflect on how far you’ve come, how many trials you’ve overcome, how many holidays you’ve made it through. These are all reminders of just how strong you are. You may not be able to completely avoid your mental health being negatively impacted this holiday season, but there are ways to help! Using these tips and tricks can help you ease the holiday scaries...and maybe even help you enjoy the holidays.

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