Maintaining Your Mental Health During the Holidays

Dr. Samantha Morel November 24th, 2023

Ah, the holiday season – a time often associated with joy, celebration, and the warmth of togetherness. But, you know what? It’s not all twinkle lights and festive cheer. For many of us, it can be a bit more complex. While it brings the promise of connection and celebration, it can also bring stress, loneliness, and anxiety. With Thanksgiving just ending and December quickly approaching, it is important to understand and learn how to maintain our mental health during the holiday’s.

The Holiday Paradox

Let’s start with something we all know but sometimes forget: the holiday season is a bit of a paradox. On one hand, it’s all about the joy and happiness we see in those feel-good movies. But on the flip side, it often places hefty expectations on our shoulders.

Firstly, there’s this immense pressure to be “merry and bright”. You might feel a bit out of place if you’re not in the mood for all the holiday cheer. And let’s not forget about the financial expectations! The idea of extravagant decorations and gift-giving can make your wallet feel a little lighter, leading to that nagging financial stress.

Family dynamics can be another minefield. Sure, it’s a time for family gatherings, but sometimes those gatherings can stir up more drama than we want. Unresolved conflicts and long-standing tensions might bubble up when you least expect them. Plus, for some people, the holidays are a reminder of estrangement from their families or the loss of loved ones. It can be a lonely time, no doubt.

And then there’s Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The reduced daylight hours and disturbance of our routines during the winter can make us feel disoriented and down.

The Importance of Mental Health During the Holidays

So, why should you even care about your mental health during the holidays? Well, that’s simple:

First, mental health is the foundation of our overall well-being. It’s not just about feeling good; it affects everything, from your physical health to your relationships and work life. When your mental health is in check, you can tackle stress like a pro.

Second, it’s about truly enjoying the holidays. When you’re mentally sound, you can savor the season, creating cherished memories and genuine moments of happiness. Plus, strong mental health helps you navigate those tricky family dinners with grace.

Challenges to Mental Health During the Holidays

To keep your mental health intact during the holidays, let’s pinpoint some of the challenges:

Financial stress can creep in when you feel pressured to buy lavish gifts and create a winter wonderland in your living room. It’s easy to overspend and find yourself with a hefty dose of anxiety come January.

Loneliness and isolation can hit hard during this time, especially if you’re estranged from your family or dealing with the loss of loved ones. Those gaps can feel particularly wide when everyone else is gathering around the holiday table.

Family dynamics can be a rollercoaster. Sure, there’s love, but there can also be unresolved issues and tensions that rise to the surface during holiday gatherings.

Time management goes haywire as we juggle parties, shopping, our daily responsibilities and countless obligations. You might find yourself spread thin and in desperate need of some “me time.”

Strategies for Maintaining Mental Health During the Holidays

Here are some strategies to help you take care of your mental health during the holidays:

  • Set Realistic Expectations: Remember, perfection isn’t the goal. Embrace the imperfect moments and ditch the unrealistic comparisons to holiday movie magic.
  • Budget Wisely: Create a budget for gifts and decorations, and focus on experiences rather than material possessions.
  • Seek Support: Reach out to friends for companionship or consider professional help if things get tough. You don’t have to go through this alone.
  • Plan for Self-Care: Prioritize self-care routines and establish boundaries. Say no when needed, and don’t forget to recharge.
  • Stay Active: Engage in regular physical activity to boost your mood, and get outside when you can to soak up some natural light.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness techniques like meditation and deep breathing to reduce stress and stay present in the moment.
  • Express Your Feelings: Share your thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend or pour them out onto paper. Sometimes, getting it out can be incredibly cathartic.


Taking care of your mental health during the holidays is a gift you can give yourself. Despite the societal pressures and personal challenges, it’s absolutely worth the effort. By recognizing the holiday paradox, understanding the unique challenges that come with this season, and putting practical strategies into action, you can navigate the holidays with greater mental resilience. This way, you’ll find pockets of joy and connection amid the festivities, strengthening your overall well-being and creating precious holiday memories. Remember, you’re worth it, and taking care of your mental health is a meaningful way to cherish the holiday season.

Stay Well,

-Dr. M

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Samantha Morel, Ph.D.

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