Managing Mental Health around the Holidays

A jam-packed social calendar, deadlines at work, the loss of a loved one, or sunless winter days may have you feeling less than merry around the holidays. Here are some ways in which you can prepare yourself and hopefully deflect some of the stress that surrounds the holiday season.

Feel like you are lacking “holiday spirit”?
Being surrounded by cheeriness can be stigmatizing when you don’t feel the same level of enthusiasm as others. Recognizing that you don’t need to force yourself to be happy and that it’s good to acknowledge feelings that are not joyful and that you are not alone in feeling this way. Instead of participating in traditions that may be triggering, try to create new traditions.

Overwhelmed by grief or loss?
If you are living with grief, loss, trauma, or loneliness, it can be easy to compare your situation to others’, which can increase your feelings of loneliness or sadness. Taking the time to check-in with your feelings can help you to have a realistic expectation for how the holiday season will be. Also, being open with your loved ones about how they can support you is important. Many times people want to help but they do not know what to say or where to start.

Pressured into activities?
We all have an idea of what the holidays should look like and can get caught up in wanting to do it all, but by setting more realistic expectations we can avoid feeling overwhelmed and learn to say no. Regardless of your plans, it can be helpful to communicate intentions to your friends and family early in the holiday season so everyone knows what to expect.

Stressed about giving gifts?
It is easy to be caught up in the commercialization and marketing of the holidays. We can feel stressed about spending money or finding the perfect gift. Giving gifts to others is not always about spending money, but setting a realistic budget and sticking to it is important. The act of giving is more important than a present. Consider gifting your time.

Lack of sunlight affecting your mood?
The winter’s lack of available sunlight can lead to new or increased symptoms of depression. Boost your mood by scheduling outdoor time during the middle of the day when the sun is the brightest or working by a window if possible.

Should I talk to a doctor?
If you have been experiencing feelings of anxiousness or depression for more than two weeks or if the holidays are long gone and you are still feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, consider talking to your primary care provider.

To learn more about the services provided by Riverside’s Behavioral Medicine Department, visit our website at or call our central intake department at (844) 442-2551.