The holidays are a time to be happy and celebrate family, or at least that’s what society would have us believe. However, there are many reasons that this time of year might be difficult for someone. If you struggle with mental health and happen to find the holidays stressful, you’re not alone. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse. So what can you do to take care of yourself and minimize your stress during this time of year? Below are a few tips to consider. 

Manage Expectations
It’s easy to bend to the pressure of other’s expectations, but that often doesn’t serve our best interests. It’s essential for your well-being that you pace yourself, organize your time, and set reasonable goals for yourself. Try making lists and prioritizing the most critical activities. Be realistic. Spread out activities to lessen your stress and allow you to enjoy them fully. Also, you don’t have to attend every party you’re invited to. 

Down Time
As you are creating your list of priorities, don’t forget to include yourself. Taking some time away from the festivities to relax and take care of yourself can help you re-energize for the other activities you have planned. 

Time with Others
While mental health struggles can feel isolating, it’s important to remember your support network. Spending time with those who care about and support, you can help you feel less alone. 

Not everyone has a wonderful and supportive relationship with their family members. In those cases, it’s also important to set healthy boundaries. You are free to limit the time you spend with individuals that are less than supportive or cause you distress. Visiting with family doesn’t have to mean an entire weekend if you find it stressful; limit yourself to one overnight or a few hours if needed. 

You can also make efforts to develop new friendships and rekindle old ones. The holidays are a great time to get involved in volunteer activities and do something good for others. You can try new things and start new traditions. 

Party Time
Attending holiday parties can be a great way to connect with others, but they can also provide temptations to overindulge. Try to limit your alcohol intake during the holidays as alcohol is a depressant and can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression. It’s also good to avoid consuming too many rich foods as overindulgence can lead to feelings of guilt and shame. 

It’s Okay Not to Be Okay
Be kind to yourself and know that it’s okay to not be okay, even during the holidays. Feelings of sadness, loneliness, and anxiety don’t take holiday vacations, and it’s essential to acknowledge your feelings. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to take time for yourself. It’s also okay to seek professional mental health services if you need them.

The holiday season can indeed be stressful, especially when you struggle with mental illness. It’s vital to do what you can to mitigate that stress by planning ahead, setting reasonable expectations of yourself, and allowing yourself to take time out for self-care.