Helpful Tips for Your Mental Health During the Holidays

The holidays can be a time filled with so much magic and joy, but they are also a time when instances of poor mental health are substantially increased. During this season of giving remember to take time to assess your mental health. 

What I have found most helpful are to identify your stressors and your triggers. Stressors are situations or comments that set off or aggravate your anxiety. For example, my biggest stressor is feeling trapped. No matter how anxious I was feeling previously, if I begin to feel trapped those feelings accelerate and intensify. Stressors can be anything: a comment from your aunt about your weight, questions about why you don’t have a significant other, or feeling alone around people who you are “supposed” to be closest to. 

It is also important to identify your triggers. These are things that start a negative thought spiral. I am still working to pinpoint all of my triggers, but one that is especially present during the holidays are comments about weight and dieting. I have struggled with my weight all my life, and I am working on learning to love myself as I am. But, as you all know, Rome was not built in a day, nor is genuine self-love. 

Now, you are probably thinking, okay well now I know all the things that will set me off during the holidays, but what do I do about it? 

Option 1: Avoidance. 

The easiest thing to do is avoid your stressors and triggers. Don’t let yourself be alone at the dinner table with that nosey aunt who can’t seem to understand that global warming does exist, and that you don’t want to discuss it with her for the millionth time. 

Option 2: Take Time. 

For many of us, if we want to avoid these triggers and stressors, it would mean foregoing the holiday festivities all together. So, option 2 is just to be keenly aware of how you are feeling and react to it instead of covering it up. Take a minute of fresh air after explaining that yes you are going to eat a second piece of pie. Go in the bathroom and do some deep breathing if you feel that vicious cycle of negative thoughts beginning. 

Option 3: Ask a friend or family member to be your buddy. 

Sit down with someone that you trust before the festivities begin and talk to them about your triggers and your stressors. Tell them about what interactions you are most worried about. Then, stick by this person’s side during the gathering as a buffer. They can help you out of sticky situations and keep you from feeling alone. 

Option 4: Stand up for yourself. 

This is by far the most challenging option because families are as stubborn as they get. But if someone says something that rubs you the wrong way or is degrading, tell them that they hurt you. Sometimes this is impractical because families don’t respond well to confrontation. 

The holidays don’t have to be a nightmare but remember that you are you and that really is enough. Just because your grandma wishes you were a size zero and your crazy uncle won’t stop talking about euthanasia, you can still have a great holiday. Just focus and take time for you, and your holiday will be great.