The holiday season is often a time of year for family gatherings, holiday shopping, and social activities. Unfortunately, keeping up with activities, safely socializing with loved ones, and staying positive—especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic—can feel overwhelming.
According to behavioral health statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health , one in five adults in the United States has a diagnosed mental health condition, making a complicated holiday season even more difficult for many people. Whether you're living with a mental illness or know someone who is, here's how to create a mental health action plan for a happy, healthy holiday season.
1. Prioritize your well-being
According to a national survey by the American Psychological Association, 38 percent of people experience increased stress during the holidays, which can lead to physical health problems, anxiety, or substance abuse. Between a lack of time, financial pressure, and family gatherings, it's easy to let your mental and/or physical health fall by the wayside.
The holiday season can be even more challenging if you have a pre-existing mental health condition. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64 percent of individuals living with a mental illness feel like their conditions worsen around the holidays.
It's essential to prioritize your mental health this holiday season, whether that means checking in with yourself regularly or setting aside some extra time for self-care. Pay attention to what makes you happy and incorporate it into everyday living. And remember: It's OK not to be OK. You’re not alone.
2. Set healthy boundaries
One of the main reasons why the holidays contribute to poor mental health is because people fail to set healthy boundaries. If you constantly feel like you're being pulled in different directions, it's time to take a step back and figure out what you need to prioritize for yourself.
During the holidays (and throughout the year), you need to be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Don't overcommit yourself—and remember that it's perfectly OK to say no. Most importantly, make sure you have enough time in your schedule to get everything done before taking on a new task.
3. Practice mindful thinking
When you're feeling overwhelmed, practicing mindfulness can help you live in the present moment. Whether you're experiencing a low mood or looking to supplement your therapy sessions, mindful thinking can make all the difference in your mental health, especially during the holidays and into the new year.
Try carving 30 minutes out of your schedule to practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques. If the weather allows, consider walking around your neighborhood while listening to a guided meditation app to keep your mind centered. Walking near nature also helps keep your pressures in perspective, reminding yourself that there's a bigger world out there beyond whatever is causing you stress.
4. Take a break from social media
Comparing your holidays to other people on social media can be draining. Instead of letting FOMO take a toll on your mental health, use the holiday season as an opportunity to be present in your own life and the people in it.
Although developing a healthier relationship with social media can be challenging, a social media detox is a great way to get started. The next time you catch yourself in a cycle of worrying about buying gifts, family drama, or holiday schedules, take a step out of time to check in with your mind and body. It can be as simple as you want to make it, whether that's enjoying a nutritious breakfast without scrolling through Instagram or putting your phone in the other room while you spend time with a family member.
5. Reach out for help if you need it
If you're feeling drained, overwhelmed, or stuck in a rut this holiday season, don't hesitate to reach out for help. It's completely normal to experience mental health problems during the holiday season, and there's no shame in seeking professional mental health care if you need it.
You might talk to a trusted family member, close friend, or mental health professional about how you're feeling. If you notice a family member experiencing mental health problems, encourage them to seek support too. Even in the absence of mental disorders, therapy can go a long way in reducing holiday stress.
If you're not sure where to start, we're here to help. At Charlie Health, our team of licensed clinicians is here to support adolescents and young adults struggling with poor mental health. Our mental health professionals are available to listen to your mental health concerns, answer your questions, and help you start making positive changes. Get started today.