The holiday season is one of the most magical times of the year, but it also is a time when all of the stressors start to pile together. If you don’t work to protect your mental health during the holidays, this season might end up being different than you hoped.
It’s no secret that I struggle with postpartum anxiety and depression, and while the holidays are one of my favorite times of the year, a lot of my triggers happen at this time too.
I feel overwhelmed with all the things I “should” and “need” to do, while feeling burn out from what I already do. I try to do as much as possible, but then I feel like I’m not taking time to truly enjoy the holidays. Then, my mental health starts to suffer.
No more! We are putting a stop this year and making sure to prioritize our mental health during the holidays. I want to share some practical tips that I know I’ll be using this holiday season, and I hope you do as well.
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How to Protect Your Mental Health During the Holidays
Here are some practical – but sometimes hard – tips for staying sane during the holidays!
1. It’s Okay to Say No!
Let’s start with the big one – the one I have the hardest trouble with myself – saying no.
During the holidays, everything seems like a good idea. You say yes to going to the parade with your best friends and their kids. You agree to plan a party for your friends at your house, attend the work parties, extended family gatherings, make cookies for the nursing home, and everything else.
It’s normal because most things are legitimately a good thing.
However, when something feels too much for your calendar or will leave you feeling more overwhelmed, say no. You might feel guilty at first, but prioritizing your mental health is more important.
2. Create Realistic Expectations
Setting realistic expectations during the holidays reduces stress. We often thing we can do all the things, make all the crafts, and go on adventures all the time.
That’s not always realistic for our families, and then you have feelings of disappointment and frustration.
Go into the holiday season with realistic expectations. Can you bake cookies with your kids? Absolutely. Can you bake cookies every day with your kids? No!
Can you take your kids to do something fun during the season? You sure can, but don’t expect to do something every single weekend.
3. Set a Budget
A lot of people feel the financial stress during the holidays. The price of everything is increasing, and the cost of buying presents for your kids gets more expensive every year.
Start your holiday season by creating a realistic budget for your family. Avoid going into debt for Christmas and set a price point that your family can comfortably afford. Some of our favorite things are budget-friendly, so don’t feel pressure to do too much or get too much this year!
4. Kids Don’t Need to Do ALL The Activities
It seems like, every year, our area comes out with more things to do during the Christmas season. While I love the diverse activities, it makes me feel like we need to do all the activities because I want my kids to have an awesome holiday season.
Be realistic and understand that your kids don’t have to do all the things, even if you wish they could. Pick one or two things that you really want to do, and then pick another one or two things that you would like to do but won’t be upset if it’s too much for your calendar this year. Some of the best things to do during the holiday season are at home anyway!
5. Take a Break from Social Media
Social media is great for connecting, and staying connected helps with your mental health. However, as the holidays come along, you’ll see more and more pictures of beautifully decorated homes, tons of presents, and things that might not reflect something possible in your home.
Holidays are one of the most common time that we compare ourselves to others. You watch movies and see pictures on social media that make you question whether you’re good enough.
It’s important to remember that what people share is a highlight reel, not their full reality. Taking a break from social media helps you focus and feeling content with your life; see the beauty in your life the way it is.
6. Practice Self-Care
Practicing self-care is of the utmost importance when you want to protect your mental health during the holidays.
Make sure you get as much sleep as possible, take time to exercise regularly, eat well (but don’t stress about eating extra cookies!), and do things that make you feel relaxed and happy.
7. Boundaries Are Good
I find that setting boundaries during the holidays is one of the hardest things, but it’s also something that creates the most stress during the holiday season. Creating boundaries reduces stress and anxiety.
Are you being forced to do something this holiday season that you don’t want to do?
I’m giving you permission to say no, even if it makes your family mad or upset. If you have trouble saying no, practice it with people you feel comfortable doing so with and learn how to handle those who will try to push the boundaries.
8. Try Sticking to Your Schedule
Something I noticed that sticking to our schedule and routine during the holidays makes it much easier to transition back into our typical school life.
If you slack too much on your schedule, your house might get messier, and that makes me feel more anxious and angry. You might not get enough sleep, or your kids might lose sleep – that means a lot of whining in your future!
The holiday season is special for you and your family, so work hard and take these tips to protect your mental health. Don’t let other people, comparison, unrealistic expectations, or a busy schedule ruin your holiday season for you.