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5 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health During the Holidays

The “most wonderful time of the year” is full of so many expectations—those we place on ourselves, and those placed on us by others. We eagerly anticipate the break from work and the delights that await us, but—as I’m sure we can almost all attest to—it doesn’t take much during the holidays for your mental health to tank, quickly.

So, while the holidays present us with more time to be more present with our loved ones, the opportunity is also a challenge to be more present with ourselves. A provocation to go deeper into who we are, how we spend our time, and with whom we spend our time.

Here are 5 ways to protect your mental health during the holiday season.

#1—Make a list of your holiday pain points.

There are plenty of good reasons to have dread around the holidays. The family member who always asks you invasive questions about your personal life. A flare up of shame around finances or relational struggles or being single! Whatever your holiday pain points are make them explicit. This will help you lead from a place of vulnerability and self-acceptance. We can’t change what we can’t acknowledge. Name your fears.

#2—Prioritize what’s important.

There’s no perfect holiday, and you can’t do it all. Determine what is most essential and let go of the rest. This honest appraisal will allow you to set realistic expectations with yourself and others. Being present—truly present—is the greatest gift of all because you

deserve to enjoy the moment. Maybe that means less parties or the house isn’t perfectly cleaned, but it does mean you are staying true to what’s important to you.

#3—Communicate your desires.

Being intentional with your loved ones is a sign of appreciation for what the holiday time offers. By initiating a conversation to express your best hopes, you are letting other people know they matter to you. Whether you have a desire to go on a holiday hike or make a meal together (keep it simple), don’t be afraid to express it, whatever happens.

#4—Expect to get triggered (sorry!).

Extra family time can also mean tough situations to navigate! If you get trigged by a conversational topic or something else, remove yourself. Responding, as opposed to reacting, means taking the timeout you need to regulate. Consider taking a deep breath, going for a walk outside, or texting with friend. Having a plan in place for when you get activated allows you to exercise self-care and not let other people take away your peace. (You can always address the situation later one-on-one from a regulated place, if you choose.)

#5—Love yourself and let others love you too.

Maintaining healthy boundaries like protecting your sleep or exercise is just as essential during the holidays. Stick to these habits of self-care and don’t get distracted by what others want. The people who love you want your health, meaning you can ask for what you need, and, most importantly, you don’t have to protect other people from yourself. Those who love you want to know your struggles (not feigned enthusiasm) and are not overwhelmed by them. Love makes one more lovable. Let yourself be loved.

*This article was initially published by Therapy With Heart and is republished with permission. 

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