Managing your mental health during the holidays to make the most of this festive time of year

We’re in the middle of a joyous time of year, but it can also be stressful as we navigate full schedules, managing finances, grief, and other commitments. While making our mental health a priority may not always seem crucial during this time of year, focusing on our mental health may lead us toward a more balanced and fulfilling experience.

Kristen Thompson, Assistant Division Director at St. Clair County Community Mental Health.The St. Clair County Community Mental Health (SCCCMH) team has several tips for navigating and minimizing stress during the holidays when commitments and obligations are at an all-time high.

“Practicing time management, prioritizing, and planning should be essential as we enter this season,” says Kristen Thompson, Assistant Division Director at SCCCMH.

Thompson suggests prioritizing your essential commitments and scheduling around those, which can help you create a realistic schedule, allowing for adequate rest and reducing last-minute stress. Additionally, breaking down tasks into smaller parts and engaging help when needed are excellent time management tools that can alleviate stress.

“Setting clear boundaries around your time and energy can make it easier to turn down certain invitations and commitments to prevent you from getting overwhelmed,” suggests Kathleen Gallagher, Program Director at SCCCMH. “Learning to say no without feeling guilty is important. We can’t do everything, and it is OK to decline an invitation or request that may overwhelm or exhaust us.”

Boundaries safeguard our emotional and physical well-being. They can help prevent burnout, reduce stress, and maintain a sense of control over one’s time and energy. Setting boundaries during this time of year might mean limiting the number of social gatherings you attend, your work commitments, or time spent on certain activities. It can also represent whom you choose to spend time with or your activities.

Gallagher also suggests establishing technology boundaries as well. The use of social media can contribute to feelings of inadequacy or comparison, especially during this time of year. Limiting your screen time can help prevent these feelings from consuming your thoughts and allow you to live in the moment.

Kathleen Gallagher, Program Director atSt. Clair County Community Mental Health.Opposite of a packed social calendar and festive activities, it is important to recognize that the holidays can be challenging to navigate for those experiencing a loss or dealing with grief. Holidays often accentuate the emotions associated with loss. According to Thompson, coping with grief and loss during such a festive time of year requires a compassionate approach.  

“It is important to acknowledge your feelings without judgment. It is natural to experience grief, especially during celebratory times,” Thompson states. “Be kind to yourself and understand that it is normal to experience joy and sadness simultaneously. Those emotions can co-exist, and it does not negate the reasons you’re experiencing grief.”

Creating space for grieving can help. Creating intentional spaces to honor the memory of a loved one, which could involve modifying traditions to accommodate their absence or creating a new tradition that incorporates their memory, may help you navigate the holidays without them.

Additionally, seeking support from understanding friends, family, or a support group can help you share feelings with others who understand and be comforting. This can also help you plan and discuss preparing for potentially triggering moments. Discussing and planning for challenging situations can help you feel more in control and confident.

Finally, prioritizing self-care is not an indulgence but a crucial component of rejuvenating and resetting. Activities that recharge and bring joy, like meditation, exercise, hobbies, or simply relaxing, can all support our mental health, allowing us to be the best versions of ourselves.

“Improving our mental health doesn’t always require major changes,” states Debra Johnson, CEO of St. Clair County Community Mental Health Authority. “Small, consistent actions can make a significant difference; adding some self-care strategies into our routine during the holidays can remind us to do this year-round, then these concentrated actions become second nature.”

Debra Johnson, CEO of St. Clair County Community Mental Health.Balancing obligations and prioritizing personal well-being is key to a fulfilling experience and building resilience during the holidays. By carefully creating and maintaining this balance, individuals can transform the seasonal rush into a period of genuine joy, connection, and inner strength. Striking this balance involves navigating the demands of the season – social gatherings, familial expectations, and work commitments – while honoring one’s mental and emotional needs.

“This deliberate effort ensures a more fulfilling holiday experience and is a foundational pillar for resilience. By nurturing this harmony, individuals fortify their mental health, empowering themselves to weather challenges with greater ease and grace,” Johnson says. “Emphasizing personal well-being amidst the festivities cultivates resilience – an invaluable asset that extends far beyond the holiday season, fostering a more robust and adaptable approach to life’s ever-changing circumstances.”

For more tips on supporting your mental health and building resilience, follow St. Clair County Community Mental Health on Facebook or visit the resource section of our website, If you would like to learn more about mental health services available in St. Clair County, reach out to the Access Line, available 24/7 by calling 888-225-4447. If you or someone you know are experiencing a mental health crisis, the Mobile Crisis Unit is available year-round to all residents of St. Clair County. The Mobile Crisis Unit can be reached by phone at 810-966-2575.

St. Clair County Community Mental Health wishes you a safe, joyous, and healthy holiday season.
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