Mental Health for the Holidays

I’ve always loved the winter and holiday season. I’m the person who goes full force into holiday preparations. I’m checking off the lists of things to do, the events to attend and putting together other holiday traditions. This year, I'm struggling to summon the energy to start writing down my to-do list. So, I’ve been looking into ways to stay grounded through holiday stress and slow down this winter rather than rush to get things done.

We can be thrown off our normal routines during the holidays and returning to them can also be difficult. I read the New York Times article, “Little Rituals That Keep Us Going, opens a new window” for their readers' non-negotiable wellness routines. One reader describes how they watch the birds from their patio every morning with their partner. It’s a calming way to get the day started without their phones, and it sounds like a nice way to connect with someone you care about. It made me think of my daily routines that help me slow down throughout my day. For example, I enjoy drinking tea and cuddling my two cats every morning. This habit has become a ritual for me and a way to slow down in the morning rush.

Another helpful resource is the Real Simple Special Editions available on Libby. They have a Special Edition on Holiday Calm: Simplify the Season. It includes an article on “5 Holiday To-Dos You Don’t Really Have to Do,” which offers tips on how to not overextend yourself to meet holiday traditions. It's making me rethink what the holidays mean to me. Now, I’m trying to focus on what feelings I notice when I’m gifting a present to someone I care about. Instead of feeling anxious about whether they’ll like what I bought for them, I focus on the feelings of joy and gratitude when I spend time with them during our gift exchanges. I’m also asking myself, “What are my feelings about this holiday tradition that I’m noticing?” and checking in with myself more.

The holidays are filled with many events to attend or host, which can be very overwhelming when you are not in the holiday spirit. “McLean’s Guide to Managing Mental Health Around the Holidays, opens a new window” offers compassionate tips for navigating holiday pressure, grief during holidays, loneliness and stress. I appreciate the sections that describe “What You Can Do About It,” which acknowledges my limitations right now and offers an understanding that it’s okay to not feel particularly joyful this season.

These are just a few of the resources I’ve found most helpful. My non-negotiable rituals and grounding techniques for this winter are:

  • Being present, enjoying my morning tea and cuddling with my cats.
  • Practicing self-compassion for not doing what I usually do for the holidays.
  • Reminding myself that spending time with people I love is what's most meaningful to me during the holidays.

What are the non-negotiable rituals that you’ll hold onto this winter season and how might you exercise self-compassion during the holidays?