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Taking care of yourself during the holidays

A licensed therapist shares 7 tips for taking care of yourself during the holidays.

November 29, 2021
A light-skinned father and son are both carrying a holiday tree through a snowy scene.

December is here, and the holiday season is in full swing. Decorations, shopping, gatherings, cooking, baking … all things that define the holidays and for some can bring joy and laughter. But it can also be busy, stressful, anxiety-inducing, and for some, lonely and emotionally painful. Stephanie Peveler, a licensed therapist with the outpatient program at Skyline Madison Behavioral Health Hospital, says it’s completely normal to feel a mixture of all of these emotions. Some days may be filled with smiles, and other days might be spent missing a loved one or stressing about cleaning your house and hosting the perfect gathering. With so much pressure around the holidays, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself.

So how do we do that? It’s easier said than done, but we should all take time and enjoy the holidays. Stephanie provided the following seven tips to help take care of yourself during the holidays:

  1. Share the responsibility and take the pressure off: Take time to readjust our idea that everything has to be perfect! We could keep that pressure all to ourselves or we could let it go and share the various responsibilities that arise in the midst of family gatherings. Everyone can contribute something to a gathering, so allow them to step up and be a part. That may mean we have to let go of our expectations of how something should be done, but if we embrace the imperfections, we might just be able to enjoy the time we have together with our families!
  2. Preset healthy boundaries and know your limits: Presetting boundaries is about identifying beforehand what boundaries you need to stay in control of for yourself and anticipating thoughts, feelings and actions. These boundaries can include where you will stay, how long you will stay and what conversations you are comfortable taking part in. Identify topics you are not okay talking about and have a scripted “plan of action” of how to kindly communicate your boundaries. For example, if weight comments are commonly thrown around, and they are hurtful to you, you can choose to not engage in the conversation, change the topic, walk away or kindly say, “that statement is hurtful, please don’t comment on my body, thank you.”
  3. Communicate clear expectations: If you are hosting a gathering, be clear about when you expect people to show up, when the meal is happening and when they need to leave. Communicating your expectations clearly helps everyone know the limits, and you can reinforce them as the time approaches.
  4. Know your triggers and keep your cool: Identify your triggers and what healthy coping skills you need to implement to keep your cool. If being alone with a family member brings up a lot of pain, then have a plan to remain diligent in assuring that you are not alone with them. If people are drinking too much and start unhealthy interactions, have an exit plan. Identify a support person and let them know what you need from them. Allow them to keep you accountable.
  5. Reminisce about loved ones who have passed and honor them in some way: Taking time to engage in grief is appropriate and healthy! It’s important to remember to take time to do something to help your heart balance the heaviness of grief. Cook a favorite recipe of a loved one, have everyone share a favorite memory of that person or take time to say, “We miss you, and you will always be in our hearts” in a way that soothes your heart. You can also take a moment and whisper, “I love and miss you,” write a letter to them or participate in any other activity that makes you feel connected to them.
  6. Engage in the present moment with laughter: We know the old saying, “laughter is good for the soul,” and it turns out it’s really true! Give yourself permission to laugh and engage in something that makes you smile in little and big ways. Play a silly game, watch a comedy, laugh in reminiscing about past moments, smile at someone, enjoy a baby’s cooing and embrace the joy in the moment.
  7. Afterward, identify things that went well and express gratitude: What we focus on grows! It’s quite easy to identify all the ways things that went wrong, but choose to purposely be mindful of the little and big things that went right! This will help frame our thoughts to remember the laughter and joy, which will provide sweet holiday memories for years to come.

Learn more about mental health services offered at TriStar Health. If you or someone you know needs immediate mental care services, please go to the nearest emergency room.

From all of us at TriStar Health, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

November 29, 2021
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