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The holiday season can be a huge stressor for many people, but it’s also a time that a lot of us look forward to! I definitely don’t need to explain why the holidays might take more of a toll on everyone this year, so if you need help taking extra good care of your mental health in the following few weeks, here’s some advice to keep in mind.

Keep in touch with your support system, whether online or in person

Whether you’re able to see your family in person or not, surrounding yourself with a support system of people that make you happy should be your top priority this upcoming season. If you’re able to travel home for the holidays, make sure to spend as much quality time with the people you love as possible, and if you’re spending the next few weeks away from home, keep reaching out to your friends and family and staying in contact virtually. Some ideas include organizing a long-distance Christmas or Hanukkah gift exchange, sending your loved ones care packages, or holding a Zoom movie or game night (if you’re not sick of those by now).

Take whatever breaks you need

Everyone has their own individual activities or habits that they might need to take a vacation from. For example, because you probably won’t be going out as often during your holiday breaks, you might start gravitating towards social media or the news more than you usually do. This has a tendency to either increase FOMO or raise your stress levels, so try to limit your phone use as much as you can whenever you can afford it. If you’re still working or catching up on school over the holidays, make sure to recognize whenever you need to take a mental health day or reduce the amount of work-related pressure you’re putting on yourself. Finally, don’t feel pressured to constantly throw yourself into activities if work, Zoom, or holiday-related fatigue is getting you down — there’s no shame in taking personal time to unwind, whatever that looks like to you.

Prioritize self-care and treating yourself

Our minds tend to jump to things like drinking a ton of water or putting on face masks when the words “self-care” come up, but the truth is that this concept will always look different to everyone. No matter how busy you might be around Thanksgiving or Christmas, you always need to put yourself first, and that starts with knowing when and how to take extra good care of yourself. Self-care can come in the form of setting exercise or nutrition goals, working on creative projects, getting in touch with a therapist or similar mental health professional, having days devoted to getting the most done or having days devoted to getting nothing done at all!

Find ways to keep traditions going

The holidays can be a stressful time for many people, but they can obviously also be associated with making some great memories with your friends and family. If you and your family have any annual traditions you look forward to — sending out gifts to relatives, watching your favorite holiday movie together, visiting your neighborhood ice skating rink, making a specific Thanksgiving dish — find ways to keep them going in a COVID-safe way. Whether it’s something you can do within your household or take to Zoom, spending quality time with your loved ones can make all the difference this year.

Go all out wherever you can

If you happen to be spending the upcoming break(s) by yourself, limiting the number of people you see, or canceling plans in general, maximize your holiday experience by putting as much effort into whatever you do have planned. Light a bunch of candles, blast your Christmas playlist, dress up your space with as much holiday decor as possible, buy some unforgettable gifts for both your loved ones and yourself, get inspiration from your neighbors’ light displays, bake all your favorite desserts, go on an adventure to find the perfect hot chocolate, have a holiday movie and TV special marathon, treat yourself to a bottle of your favorite champagne to bring in the new year… the list goes on and on.

Put safety first, no matter how discouraging it may be

At the risk of being that annoying girl on Instagram who won’t stop posting about mask wearing and gathering restrictions, I unfortunately do have to bring up that the pandemic is very much still a thing. Even though the COVID fatigue has been setting in for months and we’re all tired of being reminded of the sacrifices we have to make to keep ourselves and others safe, we should still have them in mind at the very least as we move into the winter months.

While you should only be meeting up with new groups of people after you’ve taken the necessary precautions to do so, there’s no reason you can’t make some amazing memories this year. As long as you put safety first and take care of your physical and mental health, you’ll be all set to make this holiday season a memorable one!

Anna is a sophomore public relations major at Drexel University. Originally from right outside of New York City, she is currently living and working in Philadelphia. She loves art, writing, photography, performing with Drexel's dance company, and exploring what the city has to offer.
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