The holiday season often brings fun, connection, and joy – but also stress, exhaustion, and sadness for many people. High expectations around creating perfect moments and reunions with family can be extremely stressful. Additionally, people’s routines become abnormal and there are opportunities to indulge in both food and alcohol. All of this can take a toll on one’s mental health.
Before commitments ramp up, in late November and December, it is important to reflect on the positive and negative parts of past holidays. What traditions or activities bring you joy? Which causes excessive stress or triggers conflicts? Decide what is worth continuing and what needs to change. It is also important to set boundaries around attending events, travel, hosting, and personal expenses. Preparing prior to the busy holiday season can put you in a better place for when things ramp up.
Another step to take prior to the holidays would be to manage expectations. The unrealistic expectation that holidays will be magical picture-perfect moments sets us up for disappointment. Remind yourself that mishaps, disagreements, and less-than-Instagram-worthy moments are inevitable. Accepting imperfection relieves pressure to orchestrate perfection.
As we head into the holidays, don’t forget about taking care of yourself. Make a plan for adequate sleep, exercise, nutrition, and alone time before holiday chaos sets in. Prioritize your needs so you enter the season feeling emotionally and physically balanced. Say no to activities that exhaust you. Identify coping mechanisms that help you manage stress
and discomfort like listening to music, taking a walk, calling a friend, or practicing slow breathing. Having these tools ready ahead of time can help you when problems arise.
Remember to spend time with people who lift you up instead of bring you down. If family events tend to get tense or toxic, have an exit strategy. Drive yourself so you can leave when needed. Feel free to step away to take a walk or another form of break if you are overwhelmed.
Lastly, stay grateful! Thanksgiving doesn’t have to end when the turkey and the stuffing are gone. Carry the spirit of gratitude throughout Christmas and into the New Year. Practicing gratitude changes your mindset from one of fear to one of abundance. There are plenty of good things in our lives—we must be intentional about looking for them. If the holidays exacerbate depression, anxiety, or grief, you can get ahead of it by scheduling therapy sessions. With some planning, self-awareness, and communication, you can maximize enjoyment and minimize seasonal stressors this year. Being proactive sets you up to enter the holidays focused, refreshed, and ready to manage whatever comes your
At Living Well Counseling Center, we provide holistic care and services to both men and women. We work with our clients to help improve their lives while providing a nurturing environment where they can achieve their present and future goals. We offer individualized therapy to men and women ages fifteen and older. If you or a loved one suffer from depression, get in touch today.