The holidays can be a difficult transition from work or school and may present adverse effects to your mental health. Fortunately, there are a number of basic practices and free resources that can assist those who need it. As Para Los Niños Director of Clinical Services Judi Stadler and Director of Clinical Development Sharon Berg explain, with a little planning and preparation, easing into this year’s festivities can feel more manageable.
Setting realistic expectations for the holidays is important. They won’t be perfect, but take stock of what is most important for you to experience during this time. Whether it is seeking personal connection to a certain family member, participating in a tradition, or simply communicating gratitude to your loved ones, remembering why you celebrate will decrease the potential for disappointment or stress.
The holidays can bring up feelings of loss or sadness for those in mourning. Making space for yourself to experience those feelings, setting healthy boundaries, and being proactive about commemorating those you have lost can be beneficial. But remember, it is okay to not be okay. Check in on other loved ones to ask how they are coping; don’t avoid stirring up those emotions. It’s more comforting for people to know that there is space to remember and speak of their losses.
For many students, school is a safe place, so winter break can mean separation from a space of stability for a few weeks. It is important for students leaving a secure network to identify people they can turn to ahead of time. Knowing which family members, friends, or others in your area will support you can relieve pressure.
Identifying your particular stressors or triggers is another crucial step. Be it difficulty sleeping, poor eating, or low focus, be aware what behaviors or tendencies can compound these stressors and take steps to combat them. Using music, meditation, and mindfulness apps are all great ways to regulate emotions and center yourself. For a variety of exercises you can try at home, see this list from The Daily Meditation.
Maintaining a routine can be one of the most helpful practices to avoid feeling overwhelmed, especially for children. For some, the holidays involve visiting other homes, cities, or beyond, and it can be easy to forget simple tasks like brushing your teeth or going to bed on time. Sticking as closely to your daily routine as possible will go a long way toward mental wellness.
A vital resource for anyone looking to talk through their situation are “warmlines” and hotlines. Where hotlines like 988 are designed to help people in crisis, “warmlines” offer emotional support. The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides a comprehensive list of warmlines, hotlines, and other issue-specific helplines here.
As always, know when to seek professional care. Therapy is a great place to start for talking through personal difficulties that require professional attention. For more assistance, research services in your area like Food, Housing, or Legal assistance that best suit your needs.