The festive season can be joyful and exciting, but it’s often a painful time of year for many. As the year draws to a close and the weather begins to turn, it’s not uncommon for our thoughts and feelings to follow. If the change in weather wasn’t bad enough, loneliness and depression also spike considerably when we consider our lack of cheer compared to how we’re expected to feel during the holidays. All of these issues are compounded if you have previously struggled with mental health. Taking preventive measures to bolster our mental health is good practice, effective, and easier than you think. Discover some helpful ways to maintain your mental health this holiday season.

Identify Causes of Internal Strife

The holiday season is often considered a time of unbridled joy. Knowing what you’re missing out on can make a bad situation worse. It’s one thing to be alone or sad during the holiday season, but another to know that people may have the time of their lives elsewhere. It’s thoughts like these that add weight to our shoulders while we’re struggling already. Identifying fact from fiction is a great place to start. What we imagine isn’t real, and neither are our assumptions about how happy everyone else is compared to us. The things we assume become our reality if we’re not vigilant, and before we know it, we can become stuck in a net of assumptions of our creation.

Recognize that your assumptions, while potentially partially true, are not reality. Don’t compare yourself to others and how you imagine them to feel.

Holiday Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a great tool to reacquaint ourselves with if we’ve fallen out of practice, especially if we know we tend to get a little blue during the holiday season. Mindfulness is a tactic for calming ourselves by redirecting our attention to the present moment and preventing negative thoughts from creeping in.

Rather than allowing our minds to run away with negative thoughts, mindfulness allows a certain amount of control. This practice is incredibly helpful when our thoughts tend to go to dark places. Our minds can be tricky sometimes and pull us into negative perspectives. It can be hard to escape from the negative mindset if we don’t recognize the process.

Recognizing and stopping negative thoughts before they begin to spiral is a powerful tool for securing our mental health. Take a moment to remember to ground ourselves in the present. Avoid catastrophizing in the face of an imagined future or an uncomfortable memory. Dwelling on negative thoughts damages our mental health. Most people get lost in a feedback loop if we don’t pull ourselves out. Leveraging the power of mindfulness cuts this loop short and allows us to change the direction of our thoughts. Manage anxiety and depression through the art of mindfulness.

Family Gatherings

Spending time with family can be challenging. While being around people who know and understand you is nice, sometimes behaviors and situations can be triggering. It’s often easier said than done when it comes to the emotional challenges of maintaining social connections with family. Family gatherings are a mental health minefield for anyone with familial tensions, which, if we’re being honest, is most of us in one way or another.

It stands to reason that our family members are the people we know best of all, or at least have known us the longest. It also makes sense that these people know better than anyone how to push our buttons. It’s worth strategizing a little before going to a party to determine how to handle possible scenarios.

Have a Plan

If you don’t want to miss the big family dinner, go in with an open mind. The situation may not be as destructive or confrontational as your fear. While family members can be incredibly annoying, out of touch, or even outright destructive, they’re also the only family we have. All people, including family, deserve compassion. People can change; sometimes, we only need to give people we care about a chance. Brainstorm safe discussion topics and how to change the subject if things take a turn. Even go as far as practicing what you’ll say to take the conversation in a new direction. Talk to a close relative beforehand, let them know your concerns, and see if they can help you with your plan.
Your mental health is your top priority. You’re allowed not to attend if you think disaster in some form or another is inevitable. While meeting conflict head-on is an important part of life and a healthy thing to learn, it’s also not the best course of action if we know there’s no good to come of it.

Celebrate the Season

Find ways to celebrate that make you feel comfortable. Maybe meet up with family in small groups for lunch, shopping, or an intimate dinner without the entire extended clan. Make time for yourself to rest, relax, and keep up with your routines. Participate in holiday activities as appropriate and continue doing the things you enjoy, from hobbies to exercise, even to watching your favorite TV shows. Giving yourself the care and attention you need to be the best version of yourself will make you better equipped to handle whatever the holidays have in store.

Maintain Your Mental Health

The holiday season consists of a near-constant bombardment of messages suggesting we subscribe to holiday cheer. We aren’t required to be happy and participate in all of the festivities, especially not at the cost of our mental health. Find meaningful ways to celebrate and enjoy the holidays in your own way. If you need help learning how to manage negative thoughts or improve your mental health, we’re here to help. Learn about our treatment programs and reach out if you want to take the next step in your mental health journey.