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Mental Health

How to Care for Yourself During the Holidays

If you’re like me, the first time you see the peppermint mocha available at Starbucks, you feel all warm and fuzzy inside at the thought of the holiday season being upon us. The Christmas lights, Mariah Carey music, good food and cool weather are some of the best things out of the whole year. However, as you start to pack your bags to go home for Thanksgiving, you might get that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.

            What if Grandma makes a comment about my body that makes me uncomfortable?

This time of year reminds me of who isn’t here.

My relationship with my family is strained because of past trauma, so how do I enjoy being around them?

My seasonal depression is going to prevent me from enjoying this time that is supposed to be happy.

            I wish I wasn’t single for this holiday season.

I feel anxious about spending my holiday at two different homes to see both of my divorced parents.

            These may be some thoughts circulating your mind as you choose which sweater to bring for Black Friday shopping. It can feel overwhelming, uncomfortable and trigger your body’s anxiety response. This is completely normal, and it is important to acknowledge what aspects of the holiday season are making you feel this way. Your comfort and peace should be priorities, even if the people around you do not make you feel that they are. So, how do you protect your mental health when you are around people or in situations that make you feel upset?

            The first thing you can do is meditate on what is stressing you out. Take the time to relax and identify what exactly is going on in your mind. For some of us, it is painfully obvious what we are afraid of, but for others, you may be feeling a general sense of dread, and it can be helpful to narrow down what you are feeling.

            Now, take some time to formulate a plan to remove yourself from a situation that makes you feel mentally unsafe. For example, your grandma might say, “Do you really need another piece of pie? You’ve gained weight since going to college.” To respond, you can say, “That feedback is hurtful and unhelpful. Please try not to make comments about my body.” If that is too confrontational for your nature, you can plan on leaving the table to get some fresh air and distance yourself from the conversation. This may feel foreign, or even dramatic, but there is nothing wrong with creating boundaries to protect yourself from harmful interactions.

            In addition to creating an escape plan, it is helpful to plan out times to decompress and take time for yourself. If you are going home for the holidays, plan on waking up a bit early and going to your old favorite coffee shop by yourself. If you are in an environment where you can’t transport yourself easily, go for a walk around the neighborhood and listen to relaxing music. Even just going to the bathroom for five minutes and doing some deep breathing exercises or scrolling through TikTok can be nice to reset your body and give yourself a chance to relax.

            If you are struggling with not having a place to go for the holidays and you are spending it alone or in a place you would rather not be, my heart is with you. Pick some of your favorite things to do, and then do them throughout the break to celebrate spending time with yourself. Go pick up a new book at Fabled, or go grab some paint supplies and head to Cameron Park for some quiet painting. You could look through Pinterest for a new recipe to try out, and grab your favorite foods at H-E-B for an individual Thanksgiving feast. There are ways to honor your feelings, while also actively preparing to keep yourself from submitting to them for the entire break.

            At the end of the day, this season is beautiful and exciting, but also an emotionally difficult time of the year. Please take care of yourself, and reach out to the close people in your life for support when you need it!

Hi! My name is Hannah Harvey, and I am a junior Professional Writing and Rhetoric major with a minor in Social Justice and Poverty Studies at Baylor University. I have a cat named Daisy, I love reading books (shoutout booktok), and I am a habitual drinker of iced mochas with oat milk!
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