By: Amanda Landry, LMHC, CAP, NCC

Holiday time can stir up a lot of emotions. For some people, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. For others, it can trigger feelings of hurt, sadness, and shame connected to their family, traumas, and other lived experiences. If the holidays are a difficult time for you, there are some strategies you can use to manage your mental health. 

  1. Set Boundaries around your time- You can say no during the holidays. There are a lot of events and parties you may be invited to. You don’t have to say yes to everything. Decide what is a priority for you and only commit to those things. Making sure you manage any feelings of overwhelm is going to be important and setting boundaries around time is one way to do that. 
  2. Set boundaries around topics- Let your family know what you are and are not willing to discuss. Maybe your family has different political views than you and you don’t want to argue about it over Thanksgiving dinner. Let them know that you are not willing to engage in discussion about it. You can also remind family members you don’t want to be asked questions like when you’re getting married or what’s your next step after college. Remind them you want to have a connected and loving holiday and when they ask you questions or bring up certain subjects it makes you feel uncomfortable. 
  3. Find time for yourself- Make time to do a few activities for yourself. Think about what you love about the holidays and try to find ways to embrace it with self-care. Hallmark movies and a cup of hot cocoa seems to be a very popular choice these days. Or maybe you love to read Christmas themed books, this is your chance to set aside some quiet time for yourself. 
  4. Increase your fun- The holidays can and should be a lot of fun, in a way that is fun for you. Host a sisterhood event where you build gingerbread houses. Go ice skating with friends. Create a popcorn and pajama night on Christmas Eve with your family. If holidays are too triggering, try to find activities that are still fun but not holiday related. Increasing pleasurable activities is a great way to manage your mental health.
  5. Be gentle with yourself- As stated in the first paragraph, the holidays mean different things to different people. If you are struggling with your mental health, experienced a lost recently, or just plain don’t like the holidays, remind yourself that it’s okay and you don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations but your own. If you need tp grieve, grieve. If you need time for yourself, take it. Give yourself what you need and be gentle in the process.

Make your mental health a priority this holiday season. Look for ways you can be present to the experience of the holidays but also taking care of yourself.