Tips for Taking Charge of Your Mental Health this Holiday Season


For many, the holidays bring a mixed bag of emotions. We’re expected to feel joy, cheer, and good spirit—but we often end up stressed, anxious, even depressed instead. We should be enjoying the season rather than dreading it, and happy to see our extended families rather than wondering how we’ll afford to buy them all gifts.

You’re not alone in feeling conflicted about the “joyous” season. Holiday stress is common as cold weather sets in, kids are out of school, and festivities need to be planned and prepared. Visits with extended family can be loaded, especially when estrangement is involved. The expectation of gift-giving—which brings financial and social pressure with it—adds another layer of complexity to the already-boiling pot of strained holiday mental health.

Here, we offer some simple strategies for coping with the pressures of the season, and additional tips for mitigating and minimizing your holiday stress.

Holiday Gatherings

An enormous amount of invisible labor goes into the planning, preparation, and execution of large holiday events. Guest lists, grocery shopping, cooking and decorating all take time—and much of this type of work goes unseen and unappreciated. On top of caring for children on winter vacation, organizing large get-togethers can be time-consuming and expensive. 

So what can you do to give your holiday mental health a much-needed break?

Ask someone else to host the big family dinner or holiday work party. Can another member of the family put on the traditional dinner this year? Do you have a colleague who might be willing to step in and take over the company party?

Break it into manageable parts. Are there tasks that you can do in advance to ease the workload, such as preparing part of the meal and freezing it? Is there anyone who can take some of the planning off your plate, or assist with the decorating? Don’t be afraid to ask for help this year, and give your mental health a break.

Make it a potluck. Invite guests to bring their own food and drink to the holiday event, so everyone can contribute to the work—and the cost. 

Say “no.” Sometimes it’s not in the cards to be the host this year, and that’s okay! Politely, but firmly, say “no.” Remember that you can also decline invitations to other parties that you don’t have the time or finances to attend. It might be difficult at first, but you’ll get better at saying “no” the more you do it.

Busy Schedules

If it feels like everything on your to-do list adds up faster over the holidays, you’re not the only one. Most jobs don’t stop just because kids are on break or family is in town, and it can feel endless and overwhelming.

Remember that even during this busy time of year, you need to take breaks and make time for your own mental health before you can care for others. Here are a few tips for managing your stress and your to-do list during the busy holiday season.

It’s okay if it’s not perfect. Especially for caregivers, it’s easy to place the happiness of children, friends and family above our own during the holidays. We want their experience of the season to be memorable and magical—sometimes at the expense of our mental health. 

Release some of that pressure on yourself, and let go of the small things. Maybe not every decoration goes up this year. That’s okay! Celebrate being together and experiencing the joy of the holiday season. Ultimately, those small details won’t determine whether or not everyone has a good time.

Make time for yourself and the activities that you enjoy. You aren’t superhuman! Everyone needs a moment of self-care and reflection. Even if it means a holiday-related task goes undone, try to prioritize your mental health and well-being, so you don’t burn out. Practice mindfulness around your stress levels, and take regular breaks to breathe and reset. Make a list of activities that help you calm down and relax, and go to it if you feel the stress becoming overwhelming.

Everyone needs someone to lean on. When you feel the strain of the holiday season getting to you, seek out help. A professional counselor or therapist, such as those available through Online Therapy, can offer practical strategies and solutions for managing your mental health over the holidays.

Financial Strain

Our cultural narrative during the holiday season tends to center around gift-giving, and advertisers know it. Social pressure often encourages us to give the most extravagant gifts possible. But holiday gift shopping isn’t just time-consuming and costly—it can also drain the pocketbook, and create an additional source of holiday-related stress.

Set a budget. Come up with a budget for gifts that’s manageable, and plan in advance how much to spend on each person on your list. Then stick to it, and set your family’s expectations for this year’s holiday gifts appropriately.

Refocus the meaning of the season. Gifts don’t have to be at the center of the holidays! Change the narrative around gift-giving in your household to center togetherness and generosity, and look for other meaningful ways to appreciate the people in your life.

You aren’t alone, and it’s okay to seek out help.

The holidays can be a wonderful time of year, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of your mental health. If you find it’s too much to manage alone, getting help is easy, and it doesn’t have to break the bank. Our simple online counseling services are just a few clicks away, and you can do it right from the comfort of your own home.

About TrueCare™

TrueCare™ is a nationwide Health & Wellness platform for families and businesses providing end-to-end solutions for COVID-19 testing, screening, vaccination, home care, and corporate well-being services.

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