Goodbye Holiday Blues: 3 practical ways to stay mentally healthy during the holidays
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Hmm, sometimes the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can definitely feel not so wonderful.
The time between Thanksgiving and the New Year can pull and stretch even the best of us. Travel, parties, interesting family dynamics, school plays, finances, and more can magnify issues we can generally manage.
Plus, when you add seasonal depression and health issues that can peak ahead during this time of the year, the demands of the holiday season can create some unhealthy mental space.
Friend, are you ready to can back the holiday season and choose to stay mentally healthy?
If you said yes, then let’s talk about some practical steps you can take to kick holiday blues to the curb this year.
Check your mental health inventory
As soon as November knocks on the door and daylight shifts, we can easily lose track of our mental health. Sadly, we often don’t realize we are at our wit’s end until we have been pushed too far. We start snapping, fussing, and just become a pain to be around. (Only me??). We can end up missing all that is wonderful and beautiful about this time of the year.
So, how do you take inventory of our mental health?
- Be aware of your triggers: What makes you feel stressed, irritated, or overwhelmed? What happens to your body? How do you act out?
- Check your expectations: How can you adjust your expectations and set realistic goals during the season?
- Make a list: Keep up with all of your commitments. Where have you committed your time and energy? Where can you let things go?
- Identify how you feel: When you think of going home for the holidays or being around particular people, how do you feel? Does your body get tight? Do you start to clench your teeth? Do you begin to smile? Taking time to acknowledge how you truly feel about being around people and events ahead of time can help you respond and process in healthy ways.
- Accept your unhealthy behaviors: If you want to protect your mental health, it’s important to acknowledge you have unhealthy, sometimes toxic behaviors. How you respond to a hectic holiday season is entirely up to YOU. You will not be able to change behavior you are not willing to acknowledge.
Give yourself permission to have fun
Lovely, can we agree to give up perfectionism to make room for good ole’ fashioned fun. Resist the urge to redecorate the tree because your kids didn’t make it Pinterest pretty. Let go of the idea you are responsible for making the holidays a “perfect.” Instead, make up your mind to let the season be wrapped in creating moments that matter.
How can you embrace fun to stay mentally healthy?
- Intentionally schedule time for fun: If making time for fun is a challenge for you, be sure to put it on the calendar. Carve out time for making cookies or going for rides to look at Christmas lights.
- Enjoy doing something you love: What makes you happy during the holiday season? Is it visiting with friends or ice skating? Maybe it’s cooking cookies for your neighbors? Or do you look forward to volunteering at the nursing home each year? Whatever your fun thing may be, be sure to make time for it in your busy schedule.
- Try something new: It’s okay to create new traditions, try new foods, and celebrate the holiday season in a new way. What would happen if someone else cooked the meal? What would happen if you put up the Christmas tree early because it makes you happy? What would happen if you decide to go on a vacation instead of staying home for the holidays? Friend, you can do your holidays differently.
- Schedule a do-nothing day: Plan at least one day during the holidays where you have nothing planned. Just let the day unfold. Wanna go for a walk, go. Wanna stay in pjs all day, drink hot chocolate and watch Hallmark movies, do it. Every moment of every day doesn’t need a well thought out plan to be memorable.
Stay consistent with your healthy habits
Although the holiday season can be busy, stay consistent to your healthy habits. During the season, we can all sacrifice our habits to squeeze in extra room for the one more. You know, one more party, one more gift exchange, one more trip, one more visit. Have you been there? Instead of throwing out our healthy habits, protect the time, and build it into your schedule.
So what are some healthy habits important to maintain?
- Stay in therapy: You may be tempted to cancel your sessions to make space for family or work activities, but stay consistent. Holiday times can bring up all sorts of unhealthy emotions and habits.
- Keep working out: During the holidays, our food intake goes up, and most people gain anywhere between 5-10 extra pounds. We might be busy, but we are not healthy. Continue to carve out time for 30 minutes of exercise. Get outside for a walk. Go for a bike ride.
- Rest: Unfortunately, rest also becomes one of the areas we sacrifice during the holiday season. Whether we are up taking care of sick kids (because it’s that time of year—germs are everywhere), coming home late from a party, or staying up late to get those last-minute goals crushed, rest can one of the first areas we sacrifice. Now, rest is more than sleep. It’s putting the phone down. It’s saying no. It’s allowing your mind, body, and spirit rest—no hustle.
- Practice gratefulness: Feeling sad, lonely, and stressed are all real emotions during this season. Maybe you miss a loved one. Maybe your spouse is deployed. Perhaps your finances are tight. If we are not careful, we can focus more on what we don’t have that we miss all we do have. We focus on our lack instead of our blessings. Practicing gratitude during the holiday season helps reframe our thinking. Choose an attitude of gratitude.
Lovely, the holiday season doesn’t banish our reasons for feeling sadness, frustration, or anxiety. You have a right to take care of yourself, a right to feel the mixed emotions that can come during the holiday season, and a right to enjoy your holiday even if it looks a little differently. Choosing to stay mentally healthy during the holidays doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does mean we have to be consistent. Checking our mental health inventory, permitting ourselves to have fun, and staying consistent with our healthy habits can help us to enjoy the beauty of the holiday season. If you find yourself struggling more this season, seek help. Reach out to a mental health professional to help you. You can do this!
Cheering you on,
Love these tips! The holiday season can be brutal on our mental health. It’s such a good idea to be proactive!
I love that these are practical suggestions, just what I need if I’m feeling overwhelmed and emotional!
Tara Florance Adams
Checking out expectations is an important thing. The holidays is about family for me, spending quality time together and making memories. It’s should be a time of fun like you mentioned. I love watching hallmark movies and listening to Christmas music. It’s sad that too many people in society focus on gifts and comparison of others that robs them of joy. I love celebrating Christ which makes it the most wonderful time of the year.
Consistency is key for me. When I start changing things up too much, I start feeling off and when the blues set in, I have a much harder time battling them!
It’s so important to stay mentally healthy this time of year as the holidays can be so draining. Thanks for the advice!
Love these tips! Knowing your triggers is so important! The holiday season is stressful enough and the last thing you need is to be stressed by something that could be avoided.
The holidays are going to look different this year. I have already felt blue knowing that the holiday concerts I enjoyed playing in have been cancelled along with an advent by candlelight event at church. Your article came at just the right time!
Hot Mess Goes to Oz
thanks for sharing, I know that food is always a big one for me!
Mamie L. PackHot Mess Goes to Oz
Yes, it is for many!
Such a great post! Just reading it was calming. Love your helpful and practical tips for fighting the holiday blues and having a wonderful holiday!
Such practical tips! Thank you for sharing. 🙂
This is such great advice to help us navigate such a busy season and keep us free from the holiday blues. Thank you so much Mamie!
Mamie L. PackDonna Miller
Thank you Donna! I appreciate it.
Great ideas especially in 2020. I am praying for a peaceful and calm Christmas for all of us. God Bless.
Great advice! I love the holidays, but I also really struggle with being overwhelmed by things, so I can really appreciate the information you shared here!
Mamie L. PackM. J.
Oh, yes! Even though it is a great time of the year, it can take a toll on our hearts.
Mamie, love this post! So encouraging & such practical tips for the holidays & beyond. Pinned to share with others!
Mamie L. PackMary
Oh, thank you Mary!
I like your tip on trying something new, as this can be daunting to many especially in uncertain situations. Good points that are always worth being reminded of!
Mamie L. PackAva James
Sometimes trying something new helps give the extra push.
Yes!! Staying mentally healthy during the holidays (and this whole pandemic) is so important! Thanks for this list and such great suggestions!
Mamie L. Packkariminter
Oh, I agree Kari!
Yes, I am putting finishing touchhes to my list now as I don’t like last minute rush.
Mamie L. PackBetty
That is great!! Makes things easier for sure.
Erin @ LullabyLark.com
The holidays can be so stressful and take a toll on our mental health. Thank you for these amazing strategies for staying mentally healthy during the holidays!
Mamie L. PackErin @ LullabyLark.com
Absolutely Erin. It’s important we talk about our mental health during the holiday time.
Great tips! I especially love your reminder that we aren’t responsible for creating a perfect holiday. I know my kids would rather have me in a happy, holiday (silly!) mood than orchestrating finite details. And that’s where the best memories are for me, too. I just need to remember to write myself that permission slip! Thanks for the encouragement.
Mamie L. PackRachel Mayew
It’s so easy to get caught up and miss the true meaning of the holidays.
Holidays blues are so real. I’ve experienced the holiday blues almost every year, starting with my birthday in October and lasting through Christmas. One thing I’m doing this year is changing expectations and letting others in my multi-generational family know. I get caught up on the bandwagon even when I know it’s not a healthy thing for me. Check back with me and I’ll let you know how it goes this year!
Mamie L. PackTeresa
I am so glad you are choosing to change things this year and communicate with your family. I pray this is your best year yet Teresa.
Interesting read! Thanks for sharing!
Mamie L. PackEvangeline Samuel
Thanks for reading Evageline.
This was good post my mental health always seems to be a challenge during the holiday season.
Mamie L. PackJasmine
Thanks Jasmine! It’s important we address our needs early.
That mental health inventory is genius
Mamie L. PackGabrielle
All important reminders especially for those of us who tend to get carried away during the holidays…thank you!
Mamie L. PackMallaury
Oh, yes!! Gotta start being away of those triggers.
I totally agree that knowing your triggers (and avoiding or minimizing them) is key for a healthy mind & heart this holiday season!
This is a great post. With so many stressors around the holidays, it’s great to know some tips on staying mentally healthy
Your message is so important and your suggestions are so helpful! Thank you for sharing!
Hot Mess Goes to Oz
I was just thinking about this same subject! the holidays are hard haha thanks for all the great tips!
All such helpful advice. Thanks so much for sharing.
Mamie L. PackAbby