The Holidays Aren’t Always Happy — Simple Tips for the Holiday Season

The Holidays Aren’t Always Happy

Disclaimer: These tips do not replace professional help. If you or someone you know is in an emergency mental health crisis, call or text 988 to be connected to the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. If you or someone you know is in imminent danger, please call 911 immediately. 

What is your first instinctive thought when asked about the holiday season? Some think of the festive activities, gathering around a table full of family and/or friends, or cramming in loads of holiday parties. For many other people though, the first feelings about the holiday season that to come to mind are stress, tension, grief and/or depression. 

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 38% of a surveyed group of people said their stress increased during the holiday season. This increased stress can lead to physical illness, depression, anxiety, and substance misuse. For many of us, the holidays can bring certain struggles or issues we’ve been suppressing to the surface. Whether that’s the increased financial burden of gifts and gatherings or the grief we feel from the loved one that’s missing from the table this year. These, along with pressures of commercialism, the anxiety of gift giving or receiving, and maintaining healthy eating habits are among the many things that make the holidays harder to manage. 

Many types of media also present this false narrative of how the holidays should be. Often times, those cheesy, meet-cute movies about the joys of the holiday season provoke increased loneliness and elicit a comparison way of thinking, rather than warm feelings. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that most often happens during winter. It is brought on by an increase in isolation and from it generally getting colder and darker outside at an earlier hour. The combination of having SAD symptoms and mental health struggles brought on by the holiday season can leave a person feeling hopeless.

However, there are ways to cope and effective skills to implement that can help someone get through the holiday season. Here are some simple tips to help you navigate this holiday season:

The holiday season can bring added pressure to perform or do more. It can be hard to remember to give yourself grace and compassion when experiencing hard moments. Self-compassion starts with acknowledging that we are being harsh towards ourselves and shifting to be gentler and kinder. It is learning to comfort and care for yourself, as much as you might for others. Start by keeping a journal on your bedside table and writing out your daily wins, big or small.

Often, the average adult is not getting enough sleep and rest, which can negatively impact cognitive function and one’s mood. Especially throughout the holidays when there may be more commitments, its’ important to prioritize healthy sleep habits. Limit the time spent on your phone before bedtime, try reading to quiet your mind, and go to sleep earlier to be able to get the recommended amount of sleep. 

Many people feel the need to say yes to every invite during the holiday season. This overextension can quickly exhaust someone, creating a lack of ability to emotionally regulate. Implementing boundaries and limits with the time you give to others can help bring more structure to your routine and put less pressure on yourself to RSVP to every invite. 

This time of year is filled with continuous reminders in many types of media of ‘holiday bliss’ and ‘reasons to be merry’. Social media especially can cause feelings of comparison, increase unnecessary consumerism, and present an unrealistic narrative of the holiday season. Remember you are in control of what media and how much media you consume during the holidays. Suggestion: read a few books from your to-read list and take a break from constantly consuming media and being fed the “happy holidays” message. 

We live in a time where Amazon Prime is competing with Santa in delivering last-minute gifts overnight. Consumerism is reaching extremely high levels and puts an added pressure on people to always buy more. This immediate purchasing and receiving of items can be convenient but it’s not always accessible or cost-efficient. This year, save money by turning towards making gifts instead of buying them. Make cookies, handwrite letters, or learn how to knit a scarf or blanket. 

During this holiday season, please be kind to your mind and body. Give yourself the gift of techniques and tools to experience a more peaceful season amidst all of the inevitable stress that comes with it. Build your resiliency and gain glimmers of hope this holiday season through these simple, yet effective tips. 

Find more mental health support and resources on our Mind Your Mind page. Please follow us on social media for additional information about our mental health work. We look forward to seeing you in 2024.

Blog post written by Lesleigh Knotts, Mental Health Program Coordinator.