The holidays look different this year. Many of us are adjusting annual plans and traditions for the sake of safety amidst this pandemic. We are continuing to adapt in a world of uncertainty and one that has demanded flexibility. As a result, caring for your mental health during the holidays is all the more important this year. 

Acknowledge the loss

When we face difficult situations, it’s common to sweep it under the rug or pretend it’s not as bad as it feels. Part of maintaining your mental health during the holidays is giving yourself permission to grieve. Whether you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of a tradition, or the loss of “normal,” it’s important to let yourself feel it. It’s been a hard year. 

Practice good boundaries

Another way to protect your mental health during the holidays is to be selective about what you see, hear, and say. Immersing yourself in a constant stream of negativity from the media, social media, or friends increases stress, anxiety, and depression. Remove yourself from toxic conversations and edit your own words before contributing to a conversation you may later regret. 

Reflect on the good

While this year has been filled with difficult moments, remember the ones that brought you joy. Maybe it was a bright summer day, an outing with your family, or kind words that brought a smile to your face. As you look for ways to protect your mental health during the holidays, find time each day to be grateful by intentionally seeking them. Each day, jot down one moment of gratitude to keep thankfulness at the forefront of your mind and heart. 

Be creative

Allowing for grief is helpful and necessary, but it’s equally important to find new ways to experience joy in the season. If your plans are upended, make the most of Plan B. If you expected to gather with loved ones but no longer can, jump on a video call and eat dinner together. Play a board game or watch home movies “together” while apart. Send silly texts back and forth and soak in the laughter. While this year looks different, tending to your mental health during the holidays will help you embrace flexibility in the midst of loss.

Prioritize your physical health

Take time to eat nutritiously, move regularly, sleep well, and de-stress. These four pillars of your physical health will boost your mental health during the holidays by supporting your energy levels. Enjoy a few holiday treats but balance them with lean proteins, plenty of vegetables, and healthy fats. Make time to walk or move your body daily and aim for 7 hours of sleep each night. When you feel your stress rising, take deep cleansing breaths to restore your body, mind, and spirit. 

Undoubtedly, this holiday season will look different for many of us. Tending to your mental health during the holidays is more important than ever as we prepare to embark on what we hope will be a healthy new year.