Staying mentally healthy during any time of the year requires some intentional choices and steps. But during the late fall and winter holidays, this is often even more the case. Then, add to that mix the many pandemic-related challenges we’re experiencing this year, and the battle can be significantly more difficult than normal.

In her “Psychology Today” article entitled How to Manage Your Mental Health During the Holidays, Shainna Ali Ph.D., LMHC shares the following:

“The holidays can be a joyous time for many, but certainly not all. It may be the most wonderful time of the year for some, but a time of stress or even dread for others.” 

Taking care of your mental health and the mental health of kids in your home is crucial. How do you nurture your mental health? Here are some ways to stay mentally healthy over the holidays.

Focus on Your Entire Immediate Family’s Mental Wellbeing

Depending on your personality type, it may be easy to focus so much on your mental wellness that you forget to do the same for your spouse, significant other or children.

It’s best to avoid both extremes, finding the balance between the two. Because in a very real sense, the combination of your immediate family is like one ‘living organism.’

If one of you struggles with your mental health, that will inevitably affect everyone else’s mental health in the entire family unit. Thankfully, the opposite is also true. When individuals in your family unit are mentally healthy, that will positively affect everyone.

Stay aware of the ‘weakest links’ or pressure points in your family during the holidays. Then, work as a team to alleviate challenges for family members having the toughest time or under the most stress. This will help to insulate your mental wellness as a family. Tending to the mental health of your family is also nurturing your own.

Remember That Your Immediate Family Comes First

That isn’t to say we should all foster ‘family selfishness.’ That kind of outlook isn’t healthy for anyone—especially given how many families struggle with the pandemic and economic uncertainties right now.

Instead, this view means that you work to ‘keep water out of your boat’ as a family if you want to sail across the ocean (remain healthy and effective).

Make a point to set boundaries in light of what others expect of you so you can be there for your family. You may have to say no to work obligations or extended family expectations if they are excessive and wouldn’t be best for your family.

Take a Rest from Technology

As a friendly reminder, following the news at the moment can be stressful. Because of this, be sure to set reasonable limits on how much time you spend on your phone and other devices. The holidays can be stressful enough without all the added stress following current events can cause.

Also, set limits on your social media usage. Connecting with people on social media can indeed feel good, but it also can make you feel jealous or inadequate since it’s so easy to ‘fake it.’

Focus on being fully alive and available to your family. That will always be more valuable than the pressure to appear a certain way to people outside of your immediate family.

Focus on being present in the moment for you and your family so you can minimize anxiety, stress and depression during the holidays. After all, it’s not always about what you do during the holidays that leads to improved mental health. It’s equally about what you avoid or set proper limits on.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Overall Mental Wellness

It’s important to remember that the late-fall and winter holiday season occurs during the shortest days of the year. While some individuals assume that this seasonal depression only affects people in northern climates, that isn’t entirely true.

Seasonal affective disorder during the holidays has a lot to do with the diminished daylight this time of year. As a result, people in warmer US climates can also struggle. To combat this, be sure to:

  • Get outside when you can
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Guard against excessive busyness
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Seek help if your condition worsens

Even if you don’t struggle with SAD, paying attention to these vital strategies will still improve your mental health.

Stay Mentally Healthy Through Counseling

In closing, the holidays are one of the most challenging times for good mental health for millions of Americans. Maybe it’s due to the grief of loss, family conflict or the added pressures this time of year can bring, among other possibilities. The pandemic will inevitably add to the mental health challenges as we head into the holiday season this year, including concerns over mental health and children.

Regardless of the reason for your mental health concerns, Valencia Relationship Institute is here for you. We provide counseling in Burbank/Toluca Lake, CA and counseling in Valencia, CA. We also offer virtual counseling (teletherapy) if you’d rather have your appointment online or if it is required because of the pandemic.

Whether you need family counseling, individual therapy, marriage counseling or relationship counseling, we can assist you. Feel free to schedule an appointment with us at your convenience.