The winter holiday season creates many expectations for a time of joy. Television commercials, stores, online advertisements all show images of happy families and friends celebrating together and enjoying the holiday celebrations.
This isn’t the reality for everyone, though. For many people the holidays are filled with sadness, anxiety or pain. This time of year can bring up painful memories or feelings of anxiety, fear or post-traumatic stress. If there is a history of any family abuse, people often find themselves avoiding certain family functions and relatives altogether, or, worse, having to attend functions with the abusers themselves. This time of year can also be especially tough for those who have lost a loved one or are going through difficult times, such as leaving an abuser. Others might feel very alone and isolated at this time of year, with limited resources and support.
No matter what occasion or holiday you are celebrating, remember to focus on your own health this season. These simple tips on how to stay mentally healthy during the holidays will be helpful for anyone who is dealing with trauma, such as current or past abuse, as well as anyone else who is feeling extremely overwhelmed or anxious this season. Remember: your mental health matters.
How to Stay Mentally Healthy During the Holidays
Practice Self-Care - First and foremost, make time to look after yourself, both physically and mentally. The holidays can be a busy time for many, but also stressful and anxious for others. Don’t put your health on the back burner. Try to stick to a routine. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are still so important, and staying healthy physically will help you deal with any mental stress or anxiety that might come up. Check in with yourself regularly.
Set Realistic Expectations - It can be easy to set the bar really high over the holidays, but try to avoid adding more pressure to your plate. Be easy on yourself and don’t feel bad to say no to any functions or events that will bring up painful memories, trauma or anxiety. Keeping things low-key and simple will make the holidays more enjoyable and put less stress on your mental health. Put your time and energy into the activities and people you enjoy the most.
Do Things That Make You Happy - Decide what it is you enjoy about the holidays and make time to do those things. Maybe it’s caroling, going to look at the lights, or attending your place of worship. It might be seeing friends or family, or a big feast. Make time for things that bring you joy.
Ask for Help - There could be a variety of ways you need help, whether it’s at work or at home. It may even be someone to provide emotional support, a listening ear, or assistance during a traumatic time. Don’t be afraid to reach out if need be and accept help from those who are able to assist. Any hard feelings you experience this time of year, such as sadness, fear, anxiety or anger, are valid and you’re allowed to experience these.
Surround Yourself with Good People - If possible, avoid any events with people who bring you pain or fear to be around. Spend time with supportive and loving people who lift you up, whether it’s family, friends or coworkers. It’s okay to pass on engagements if you don’t feel comfortable being around certain people. Your well-being is most important.