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How Can I Protect My Mental Health During the Holidays?

By: Bridgette W. Gottwald, LPC, NCC

Currently, the U.S. is still facing a surge in coronavirus cases, fluctuating physical distancing restrictions and regulations, and now the stress of the holidays coming up. Whether you relate more to the Grinch or the overjoyed family member, it’s important to be able to self-regulate and find a place in-between the two that makes you happy and feels like a good fit. Regulation is key. While we all have so much on our plates (pun intended), it’s difficult to think about all that is ahead in the last month of this year, especially after Thanksgiving.

Mental Health and the Holidays: What Can I Do to Protect Myself?

The holidays can be a really difficult time of year for many people. In 2014, the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that “64% of people with mental illness say the holidays make their conditions worse.” Additionally, a 2021 survey showed that 3 in 5 Americans “feel their mental health is negatively impacted by the holidays.” Check out these tips below to help yourself to have a healthy and successful holiday season.

Perspective Is Key

In thinking about perspective, this quote has always been helpful for me:

“Maybe you think someone doesn’t have a lot on their plate compared to you. But maybe their plate is smaller than yours and doesn’t have a lot of room to begin with. Or maybe their plate is paper and their flimsy paper plate can’t hold as much as your sturdy ceramic plate can.”

Expect less from others and be grateful for what you have. It’s so easy to compare ourselves to other people thinking that “they have it better” or “if only I could…” but the truth is that you have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. You only see the highlight reels of other people’s lives. Remember to stay in your own lane!

Say No

This has always been a tough one for me personally. It’s easier and more comfortable to say yes, and aim to please others. However, when it comes down to it, the most important person that you should focus on keeping happy and pleasing is yourself.

Think Realistically 

Many of us would like to be able to do it all, but one person can only handle but so much. When we stretch ourselves too thinly, we will be giving less to each person or task at hand.

Maintain a Sleep Schedule 

It will always be difficult to feel happy when you aren’t getting the sleep that your body needs. Set a bedtime and give yourself the time and space to wind down before going to sleep – routines are helpful.

Come Up With New Traditions 

Some old traditions might have been thrown out the window due to the pandemic or social distancing guidelines. Focus on the things around you that you are able to control and you will wind up happier that way.

Make Time to Connect 

Connection and meaning are critical to your mental health. Ensure that you are making time to maintain and connect with those that you have important relationships with – both friends and family. Also, you can make a point to connect with yourself through self-care.

Set Boundaries 

Boundaries are key to having healthy relationships. It’s wonderful to be generous during the holidays, but it becomes a problem when that generosity is at the expense of yourself. Limiting the time that you choose to spend with family might be a good way to decrease conflict or the opportunity for conflict to arise.

Don’t forget to check in with yourself and make time for reflection so that you are able to appropriately cater to your needs. If you need help in doing this, reach out to one of our talented counselors at Symmetry Counseling to see how therapy in Chicago can help!


Gillison, D. (2021). The most difficult time of the year: Mental health during the holidays. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved from:

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