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Tips for Managing Your Mental Health Around the Holidays

Dec 20, 2023

The holiday season often brings joy, warmth and a sense of togetherness, but for many, it can also trigger stress, anxiety and feelings of loneliness.

“The holidays can be hard for many people, whether you’re feeling financially strained, overwhelmed by heightened social pressure or missing a loved one,” said Joseph O’Brien, LCSW, manager of the Behavioral Wellness Center at Inspira Health Center Bridgeton. “The holidays can also be particularly difficult for those experiencing a mental illness or substance use disorder.”

Balancing the festivities with self-care becomes crucial during this time of year. Here are some tips to help you prioritize your mental health and well-being around the holidays.

1. Plan ahead

Create a realistic plan for the holidays. “Think about what you want to do versus what you should do,” said O’Brien. “Often, doing what we should do, or what we think other people want us to do, puts us in a place where we sacrifice our own well-being to please others. Instead, prioritize activities that bring you joy and consider scaling back on commitments that might overwhelm you.”

If you’re feeling financially stressed, other ways to plan ahead are to discuss price limits for gift-giving with friends and family and set a budget for your holiday shopping so you don’t overspend.

2. Set boundaries and learn to say no

Don’t feel obligated to attend every event or accept every invitation. “Learning to say no is important around the holidays, especially for people with mental illnesses or substance use disorders,” said O’Brien. “Your mental health should be your priority no matter what time of year, and it’s okay to set boundaries, even with loved ones. Figure out your boundaries and communicate them appropriately so your loved ones can help support you.”

3. Stick to a routine

Amidst the chaos, try to maintain a routine. Regular sleep, exercise and healthy eating habits can significantly support your mental well-being and help you feel a sense of control. “It’s all about balance,” said O’Brien. “It’s fine to indulge in holiday sweets here and there, for example, but maintaining a foundational routine you know you can go right back to will help you feel like your healthiest self.

4. Set aside time for yourself

It can be easy to get wrapped up in endless activities and social engagements but don’t forget to take time for yourself to unwind. “If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, find moments throughout the day to step outside and take a moment to yourself,” said O’Brien. “You can also try mindfulness techniques like meditation, deep breathing or yoga to help you relax and feel refreshed.”

5. Connect with others

While setting aside time for yourself can be a healthy self-care tactic, connecting with people who understand you is important, especially if you’re feeling lonely or isolated. “If you’re grieving a loved one or feel especially alone, reach out to your support network,” said O’Brien. “Find time to meet with a friend, family member or support group in person if possible, and remember, you are not alone.”

6. Seek help

If you find you need extra support, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help. “If you’re already in therapy, consider maintaining regular appointments over the holidays just in case you need additional support,” said O’Brien. “If you’re struggling, it’s okay to share your feelings with someone you trust. They can help you reach out to your primary care provider or a mental health professional.”

If you or a loved one need immediate help, call 9-8-8, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Inspira Health offers comprehensive behavioral health services for children, adolescents and adults. Visit our Behavioral and Mental Health Services page for more information.

Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.

Topics: Behavioral Health, Health and Wellness