Holiday Self-Care Tips to Maintain Your Mental Health

We've got 8 ways to show yourself some love while you savor the season.

Published July 25, 2022
Girls enjoying holidays with young man and woman

The holiday season is a time when many of us relax and enjoy festivities with family and friends. But it's also a time to show appreciation for yourself. After all, you support yourself (and others) mentally, emotionally, and physically throughout the year. Showing yourself some love during the holidays is a wonderful way to boost your well-being so that you can be fully present for all of the celebrations and challenges that arise throughout the year.

One way to show gratitude for yourself this season is to practice holiday-self care. Self-care is simply the act of caring for your happiness. It allows you the opportunity to take a break from holiday gatherings that can sometimes be hectic. Taking steps to savor the season in your own special way is a gift you can give yourself.

Wellness Challenges During the Holidays

The holidays can be a happy and cheerful time of the year. But they can also bring unique challenges. These stressors can put a damper on holiday festivities and stifle holiday cheer. While difficulties vary from person to person, there are some common experiences that can challenge your well-being.

Celebration Stress

Parties are supposed to be fun. However, they can also bring about a lot of stress, especially for people that are hosting during the holidays. There's food to be bought and cooked, houses to be cleaned, and tables to be decorated. The endless chores can be overwhelming, especially during the holidays when there are often back-to-back celebrations. It can leave you feeling overwhelmed and worried.

Holiday Blues

Sometimes people experience what is often called the winter blues. It's the feeling of sadness or isolation during the holiday season that can leave you wondering what happened to your holiday cheer. Many think it may be caused by colder weather, shorter days, and less sunlight. Some people even develop a condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which can lead to feelings of depression, fatigue, or changes to their sleep habits.

Increased Family Visits

Family time often increases during the holidays. Maybe you have a strong family bond and this is something you look forward to. Or, maybe family gatherings leave you feeling drained or overwhelmed. Either way, you can experience burnout from family social gatherings.

When family visits, especially if they have traveled a long way, you may feel obligated to make time for them. The obligation may mean that you put your own well-being at risk. This is a big weight to carry, especially for a season that is supposed to be merry and bright.

Vacation Deadlines

Many people take time off during the holiday season. And, although the idea of a vacation is supposed to be fun and exciting, it can also be a cause of stress. For example, you may be worried about getting as much work done as possible at your job before you take off. Or, you might already be worried about the pile of work that will be there for you when you get back. Holiday deadlines can feel like a big obligation, especially if you are a person who thinks about work even when you're away from the office.

Health Benefits of Self Care

Young woman reading book at the fireplace at home

Self-care is a way to take care of yourself and tend to your mental, emotional, and physical needs. Some research has found self-care to be linked to many health benefits such as improving overall well-being and increasing a person's happiness. But researchers find that self-care is a difficult element to measure because it means something different to everyone.

In addition, because researchers don't agree on the specific elements involved in self-care, there's no clear recommendation regarding the amount of self-care that is needed to reap the benefits.

Some additional health benefits of self-care include:

  • Improved concentration
  • Increased energy levels
  • Lower risk of illness
  • Reduced feelings of frustration and anger
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression

If you notice yourself feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or just even a bit down, try to engage in a self-care activity. It might just give you the mood boost or bit of relaxation that you need.

Holiday Self-Care Tips

There are many different ways to practice self-care during the holiday season. Self-care is highly individualized. What works for one person may not be a good fit for someone else. It's all about getting in tune with your own needs.

You can ask yourself some questions to get a better idea of what self-care practices might work best for you. For example, are you feeling overwhelmed with stress or feeling drained? Are you looking for a meaningful way to connect with loved ones or were you hoping for some alone time? Many different factors will influence the type of self-care activities that are best for you.

Spread Some Kindness

Have you ever noticed that doing something nice for others makes you feel good inside? There's a reason for that. Research from The Journal of Social Psychology shows that participating in acts of kindness toward others can boost a person's well-being and happiness levels. The study also found that the more acts of kindness you do, the greater your own happiness boost.

The study also found that you feel a mood boost in every act of kindness whether it's towards friends, acquaintances you don't know very well, or even strangers that you just met that day. Some ways to spread some kindness are:

  • Bake gingerbread cookies for your loved ones.
  • Buy someone a coffee or hot chocolate.
  • Compliment people on their festive outfits or decorations.
  • Decorate your house to brighten the spirits of other people in the community.
  • Write your neighbor a holiday card to show your appreciation.

Pledge to Volunteer

It can feel good to volunteer your time and help out others in need, especially during the holiday season. Many people volunteer at this time, especially on the holidays themselves. Even though many non-profits are short-staffed during most of the year, they often have a surplus of volunteers on holidays.

One way to help out is to take a pledge with your family to volunteer at some other point during the year. Then, look at your schedules and plan a date in the future that you will get together and help out a cause close to your heart.

Volunteer Organizations

  • American Red Cross - The Holidays for Heros program asks members of the community to write gratitude letters thanking military service members for the sacrifices they have made for their country.
  • Adopt-a-family - Find a local adopt-a-family program in your area to help a family with financial needs celebrate the holidays through food, gifts, and monetary donations.
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of America - Help a student with homework, lead an art class, or coach a team to help create a sense of community and support for boys and girls across the country.
  • Feed The Children - Help put together boxes of food and other essentials for children in need. You can also donate supplies to the cause or collect donations from your community.
  • Feeding America - Donate food to one of their food banks in your area, or pledge to volunteer to pack or serve food at one event throughout the year.
  • Habitat for Humanity - Help build houses, collect funds, or donate furniture to help families in need.
  • Meals on Wheels - Help deliver food to people in need.
  • Project Angel Tree - Provide a holiday present for a child or older adult in need this season. It gives people the opportunity to purchase a present off of a child's wish list, which will then be delivered to them and placed under their tree so that they can have something special this season.
  • Step Up - Put together hygiene kids, donate supplies, or offer your own helpful expertise to lend a hand to individuals and families facing serious mental health issues or that are experiencing homelessness.
  • World Literacy Foundation - Help children across the globe have free access to educational materials to ensure their academic success. You can even author a children's story with your family to be added to their free online library.

Other Ways to Get Involved

  • Ask community programs about how to host a family or person in need for dinner.
  • Clean up a local park or street by picking up trash and collecting cans.
  • Collect books from your house or neighbors that can be donated to shelters or libraries.
  • Find a local shelter in your area and ask about specific ways you can contribute.
  • Have friends and family members each donate a few dollars a week and donate it to organizations throughout the holiday season.
  • Host a holiday party and ask guests to bring a can of food with them to donate to a local shelter.
  • Put together a bake sale and donate the funds.
  • Run a canned food drive.
  • Walk dogs at your local animal shelter or foster a pet for the holidays.
  • Write letters or put together small gift bags for people in hospitals or care facilities.

Allow Yourself Time to Rest

It can be difficult to make sure you are getting enough sleep during the fall and winter seasons. However, it's still important to get good quality rest. Sleep can impact a person's health and also their happiness. Research shows that getting enough sleep can actually boost your quality of life and overall satisfaction. Some things you can do to make sure you're getting a good quality rest during the holidays are:

  • Avoid screens before bedtime
  • Develop a nighttime routine and try to stick with it as much as possible
  • Make your bed cozy by putting on holiday-themed bedsheets that make you happy
  • Make your nighttime environment peaceful by decorating with soft lights
  • Play quiet or soft holiday songs to help you drift off to sleep or keep you company while you do your nighttime routine
  • Read a holiday book or one that's set in fall or winter before bed to help you wind down
  • Use an oil diffuser with peppermint essential oils or light a pumpkin-scented candle to help ease stress

Get Creative with Loved Ones

Family crafting Christmas cards

One way to practice self-care is to find a creative outlet. Research shows that when you get creative, you boost your well-being. In addition, creative outlets can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Also, it's a great way to boost your happiness while also spending time with loved ones. Get them involved in your creative pursuits and you can spread the happiness to your whole family. Some ways to get creative with holiday fun are:

  • Carve pumpkins.
  • Decorate holiday cards.
  • Go old school and string popcorn and cranberries to hang around the house.
  • Have a gingerbread decorating contest.
  • Have a holiday-themed painting night to make your own decorations.
  • Make a flour ornaments or decorate bulbs
  • Make a holiday countdown chain leading up to the next holiday

Give Everyone the Gift of Gratitude

Gratitude is the practice of being thankful and showing appreciation for the people and aspects of your life that bring you joy. Studies show that practicing gratitude can increase a person's emotional well-being, and also help them cope with stress. You can practice gratitude in many different ways.

For example, you can keep a gratitude journal and write down five things a day that you are thankful for. Or, you can write a gratitude letter to each of your loved ones and give it to them for the holidays. All it takes is about 15 minutes to tell someone you appreciate them and boost your happiness.

Get Moving

Carefree friends playing with dry leaf while standing at park

Research shows that exercise can help improve sleep, uplift your mood, and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. However, you don't have to engage in exercise in the traditional sense to experience the benefits. In fact, any type of physical activity can positively impact your health.

Whether you're hitting the gym or just going for a walk. It can be difficult to find time to get moving, especially during holidays. So get friends and family involved to make the activity more social. Or, enjoy your alone time and take some space. Some ways to engage in physical activity this holiday season are:

  • Put out your seasonal decor or tidy up your space a bit with some fall and winter cleaning.
  • Sign yourself or your family up for a turkey trot and run a 5k or 10k race for some friendly competition.
  • Stroll through your neighborhood and admire the outdoor holiday decorations.
  • Take a walk in the park and look at the changing colors of the leaves.

Savor the Season

When you savor something, you allow yourself to fully enjoy it. Research shows that savoring can increase a person's positive emotions and help them cope with stressors. It involves being fully present in the moment and being able to really appreciate the good aspects of your life.

For example, you can savor your morning coffee by drinking it slowly, breathing in its smell, and appreciating the warmth it brings with every sip. You can savor anything from food to walks in the park to quality time with family.

Bring Hygge into Your Life

Hygge, pronounced hoo-ga, is a term used by the Danish that loosely translates to a sense of comfort and well-being. It centers around the idea of coziness, which makes it perfect for self-care. Just ask the Danes, who consistently rank as one of the world's happiest countries according to the World Happiness Report. Some ways to practice hygge are:

  • Break out soft blankets and pillows that make your bed peaceful and festive
  • Bring nature indoors by getting some houseplants.
  • Bundle up in soft and cozy scarves or socks.
  • Dim your lights in the evening or light candles to create a soft glow.
  • Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate, tea, or coffee.
  • Make your favorite meals or snack on your go-to comfort food.
  • Sit outside in the evenings or open your windows to breathe in the fresh air.
  • Wear clothes with soft textures that will keep you comfy all day.

There are a lot of ways to take care of yourself this holiday season. It's important to take time to tend to your mental, social, and emotional well-being. It's okay to want to take breaks from the holiday festivities, especially when they start to feel overwhelming. It might be difficult for you to dedicate time to yourself when you feel like you should be spending time with friends and family. However, you can't support others until you first support yourself, and that means prioritizing your own wellness and self-care. How will you support yourself this holiday season?

Holiday Self-Care Tips to Maintain Your Mental Health