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Wellness > Mental Health

Operation Brightside: Checklist Check-Ins for Holiday Sanity

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at BU chapter.

The holiday season is, without a doubt, one of my favorite times of the year… but it can also be extremely stressful. According to a study mentioned by Harvard Medical School, “sixty-two percent of respondents described their stress level as ‘very or somewhat’ elevated during the holidays, while only 10 percent reported no stress during the season.” 

Everyone gets stressed out during the holiday season: from seeing family and friends, cooking large amounts of food, meeting in large groups, and often traveling back to the place one grew up, there are plenty of anxiety-inducing situations dispersed throughout the joy of the holiday season. For those with mental health disorders and for college students, this stress is even worse. 

While I love Christmas and have a great relationship with my family, I still get stressed about going home for the holidays. The stress of making plans with friends from high school, having to referee family arguments at dinners (while trying not to get caught up in them myself), and being away from my college best friends and boyfriend gets to me. 

Christmas Tree with Baubles
Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

If you’re feeling anxiety and stress about returning home this winter break, especially regarding holiday festivities, you aren’t alone. There are dozens of sources out there on the internet to help you through it, including this great article by the Mayo Clinic. That being said, my own therapist gave me a great tip for staying sane throughout the holidays: creating a mental health checklist. 

When one is having an episode of anxiety or depression (or any other mental health issue), it can often be hard to remember the tools she has at her disposal. That’s why a checklist is a great tool to help you remember everything that you can do while home to break out of a funk! The checklist can be as short or simple as you want it to be — it’s perfect because it’s fully customizable!

So what do you put on this checklist? In my case, I have one checklist for the two stressful scenarios I have happening over winter break: being away from my boyfriend for a couple of weeks (can you say “separation anxiety after being quarantined together since March?”) and spending a week with my boyfriend’s family for the first time ever (this one doesn’t need explanation… making a good first impression is terrifying!).

To-do, list, paper, pen, journal
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters from Unsplash

For being away from my boyfriend, I have the following things to help calm me down and relax while anxious: having a conversation with my mom or best friends from home, taking a bath, playing with my dogs or taking them for a walk, crocheting, making a phone call schedule with my boyfriend, laying out in the sunshine, and weekly therapy sessions. 

For being with my boyfriend’s family, I have this checklist: being with my boyfriend, having a close friend in his hometown who I can see or call when I need help, being able to play with his family’s dog, doing yoga, and the joy of getting to experience a new city. 

a plate of sugar cookies surrounded by candy canes, pinecones, and green.
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels
There are so many more things I can (and will) add to the above lists, but just typing out those few things took away the anxiety I was feeling about winter break! If you’re feeling stressed, make a checklist of things that you know you’ll have access to while celebrating the holidays. I recommend acts of self-care that can be performed anywhere. Exercising, facemasks, baths/showers, taking a walk outside, spending time with pets (if you have them!), giving yourself a mani/pedi, reading a nostalgic book, taking a nap… the possibilities are endless!

Memorize the list, write it down, do whatever you need to do to remind yourself of the most important part of it all: you’ll be okay, and you’ll make it through whatever the festive season throws at you. Happy holidays, and stay safe! 

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Amille is a senior at Boston University pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English. Her passions include travel, cooking, and creative writing; when she isn't testing new recipes and working on her first novel, she's spending time with pets and making memories with family.