Taking Care of Your Mental Health During the Holidays

By Dr. John Danial

As a parent, chances are you want yourself and your family to enjoy the holiday season. In your mind, you may even imagine time for relaxation, family bonding, yummy food, and all the other holiday goodness. Unfortunately, part of you already knows the holidays can also bring out pressure, family drama, more chores, gift shopping, needing to fill your child’s day while they’re off of school, and all sorts of other stressors. Here are some tips to help you manage some of the most common holiday stressors, and get the most out this holiday season!

1. As a Parent, Make Sure You Prioritize Your Own Needs

It is so common for parents to focus on what their kids need, making sure everyone is taken care of, while seeming to run on fumes yourself. The truth is that there is nothing more valuable than giving your kids the best version of yourself. This doesn’t mean the “perfect” version, because that doesn’t exist.

Instead, be kind to what you may also need. This can include “bigger” choices like deciding whether or not to go to an extra family event, or taking a few hours for alone time or date time with your partner. It can also include “smaller” choices, like taking 10 minutes to yourself in the morning (maybe sipping your favorite tea) before jumping into the tasks of the day. It can even be “catching” the critical voice you may have that tells you “I’m not going to be able to do all this,” and replacing it with a kinder, more gentle voice.

2. Keep Routine

One challenge that many families experience during the holidays is adjusting to a big change in routine. While the usual routine may include a wake-up time, sleep-time, mealtimes, school time, etc., all of this may go out the window during the holidays. For some families, this may lead to difficulties in managing screen time, increased irritability, or other issues that may pop up with less of a routine.

The truth is kids and teens benefit from routine. However, this doesn’t have to be related to “work” and productivity. Instead, you can explore some categories of things that are important to you to include in your child’s daily routine. For example, mealtime, outside time, and creative time can all be parts of the day. This doesn’t have to look the same each day and can even be a way to start to encourage your child to think of ways to incorporate these ‘categories’ in a way that feels interesting to them. Screen time can also be included in this type of routine, but if you are concerned about too much screen time, having designated space during the day can help.

3. Embrace “Now”

If you’re a parent who catches themselves wanting to create “the best holiday season ever,” or similar high standards on what you “should” be doing, then this tip is for you. Comparison tends to get in our way. If we reflect, we may notice our tendency to compare ourselves to others around us, to our own childhood experiences, or even to our own perception of what we “should” be doing.

When we compare, we rob ourselves of what is special about now. Letting go of comparisons can be hard, but it can free you up to better enjoy what is happening in the present moment. Try to encourage yourself to notice what you are grateful for in the present day or even the present moment. You can also practice starting off your mornings by reflecting on what you want to tune into that day. For example, it can be the moments your kids laugh, the activities you do together, or anything else you choose to tune into. By practicing letting go of comparisons and tuning into now, you will set yourself up to celebrate what this holiday season is rather than putting pressure on yourself to make it what it should be.

In summary, practicing paying attention to your own needs as a parent, creating some simple routines, and embracing now, can help you get the most from this holiday season. Happy holidays!

About the Author

John Danial is a licensed clinical psychologist and the clinical director at Simi Psychological Group. He is passionate about helping kids, teens, and families learn to recognize and embrace their unique individual strengths and qualities. He has experience working with individuals on the Autism Spectrum as well as those dealing with anxiety and depression. Dr. Danial runs and supervises group therapy, including groups for adults and teens.