The holiday season can be a very happy time. Family gets together, people become a little bit kinder, and you get some time off work. In theory, no time of year could be better.
However, in reality, the holidays can be a difficult time for many people in terms of mental health. In 2024, we can expect this to be amplified, considering the restrictions on gathering and any consequences you may have faced from the pandemic – whether personal loss, financial loss, or physical illness.
But even in a “normal” year, there are many reasons the holiday season is tough on mental health. Seeing family after a long time can be difficult if they are particularly judgmental or trigger past issues. The stress around buying gifts and organizing dinners can become toxic. It can be financially costly.
For some of us, the lack of structure itself can bring on a sense of vulnerability. While it is nice to get time off, it does make it more difficult to maintain your coping mechanisms.
To help you get through the holiday season this year, here is a checklist of things you can do to take care of your mental health.
- Take time out. If the people around you expect a lot from you, set aside time that is for you alone. Be unapologetic about it, so that everyone knows to take it seriously.
- Create a holiday routine. If you aren’t being strained by the expectations of others, and instead are struggling to deal with the unstructured nature of the season, implement your own routine that is adjusted to be inclusive of the festivities.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Whether or not you enjoy journaling or are enamored by the idea of gratitude, this is a good way to remind yourself of what’s important to you. If friends or family judge you according to their standards, you will be able to keep perspective, knowing that you don’t want to live the life they see as ideal.
- Budget. It can be tempting to just swipe your credit card and hope for the best in a time during which overspending is encouraged. But it can create financial stress. Make a holiday budget and stick to it. You don’t have to spend big on gifts just because everyone else is doing it.
- Check in with yourself. It is easy to get swept up in the busyness of the holidays, so make sure you take a moment each day to see how you are doing. This way, you can make adjustments before you get overwhelmed.
- Spend time with your chosen family. Blood relatives tend to assume they should be more important than anyone else in your life. But it is your chosen family that gets you through each day. Make time for them and enjoy the mutual support.