As the holiday season approaches, it’s important to be aware that this time of year can necessitate extra attention and care when it comes to the mental health of ourselves and others. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, or the secular December holidays, many people find that the season can trigger emotional highs or lows, bring up joyful or painful memories, and intensify feelings of togetherness or loneliness. For those already struggling with anxiety, depression, addiction, relationship difficulties, or other stresses, December can be challenging to navigate. If you have ever found yourself overwhelmed during the holidays, these tips for self-care can help you to center your health and well-being this year:
From festive advertisements to customary holiday greetings, there are constant reminders that we should be feeling joy, connectedness, love, harmony, and hope. For some, this expectation can exacerbate those feelings that don’t conform to this imperative of perpetual good cheer, including grief, sadness, regret, loneliness, and anger. Clarifying the expectation that it’s okay to feel a range of emotions and moods may help you to cope when those difficult feelings arise.
Set Healthy Boundaries
The holidays often increase our social commitments, as end-of-year work parties, get-togethers with friends, dinners with family, and other gatherings fill up the calendar. As you consider which events to host and attend this year, be thoughtful about ensuring that you’re not agreeing to take on too much or attend events that will leave you feeling overwhelmed and depleted. Try to find balance by penciling downtime into your schedule too.
Though December can involve a lot of running around and last-minute shopping, it’s important to prioritize spending quality time with family, friends, or whomever you consider your support network. These connections build meaning, reflect our value, and encourage resilience. Similarly, consider finding a way to connect with those who may not have that support through volunteering or visiting someone who is alone. Helping others has reciprocal benefits for psychological health.
Insist on Consistency
Holidays can be disruptive to our regular health and wellness routines—we stay up and sleep in later, eat and drink less moderately, stop exercising, and put our self-care activities on hold. Though a bit of indulgence and flexibility is usually warranted, maintaining some consistency can make a big difference to your mood and stress levels. Planning a few workouts, for example, will ensure that you get those endorphin-boosting and stress-relieving benefits of exercise. If you anticipate that the holidays may be overwhelming or taxing on your mental health, it may be helpful to discuss this with your therapist beforehand to ensure that you have support in place to manage any obstacles that arise.
Zoë Laksman has practiced as a Registered Clinical Psychologist at The Clinic on Dupont since 2007. Laura Clarridge is a certified executive coach who helps her clients find fulfilling educational and career pathways. Their backgrounds and training have shaped their interest in promoting improved psychological health, interpersonal functioning and wellness. They work together as a clinical team and as the developers of The Clinic on Dupont’s online presence.