Prioritize Your Mental Health for the Holidays

Jessica Fowler
Substance Use Prevention Specialist

The holidays are a fun and exciting time for many, especially for children. The joy, the cheer, the lights, celebrations, and the holiday bustle can be exhilarating but it can also be overwhelming and stressful for children and adults.

Taking care of ourselves on a daily basis reduces stress and improves mental wellness, and we should be extra mindful to do so during the holidays where stress levels may be increased. 

Here are a few tips to help prioritize your mental wellness and reduce stress in your home this holiday season.

Manage Stress. Our children sense when we are stressed and can be affected by it. Managing your stress and taking care of yourself is a wonderful way to model and reinforce the importance of self-care for children. It is very important to take care of yourself first and if you need a break, take one. When you feel stress building, say to your family “I feel overwhelmed at the moment and am going to take a break to enjoy a short walk outside in the fresh air.” This is not only a great way to take a moment for yourself to recharge but also to teach your children that it is okay to feel overwhelmed and to demonstrate a self-care technique that they can try too. It may help to come up with a code word for your family that you can use when you need that break.

Be Transparent about Routines. Children do really well when they have routines that are healthy and predictable. It is important to maintain these routines as much as possible during the holiday season, especially sleep routines. However, we understand the holiday excitement can make it difficult to maintain all of our routines. When children’s routines are going to change, talk about the changes with your child and prepare them ahead of time. Understanding the change in plans helps to reduce their stress and potential anxiety.

Avoid Over-Scheduling. There is so much we want to do during the holidays, including  visiting with friends and family and the desire to say “yes” to every invitation. However, that can become overwhelming for our children and for us. It may help to limit your holiday get-togethers and activities to help reduce stress.

Don’t Forget to H.A.L.T.  It is important to remember to halt and do a check in when you or your child are feeling hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. These feelings can increase our stress levels and feelings of being overwhelmed by that normally would not faze us. Learn more about H.A.L.T. here HALT for Stress- A Mini-Lesson

  • Hungry- Make sure to eat healthy meals and avoid skipping meals during the holidays when you are busy.
  • Angry- Take a break and go for a walk or do some breathing exercises to help manage feelings of anger.
  • Lonely- Sometimes the holidays can be lonely. Make sure to use your social support to help during this time. 
  • Tired. Do your best to keep your and your family’s sleep routines the same during the holiday and try not to neglect your sleep. If you are feeling tired it is okay to take a break and rest. 

Get Moving. Make sure you and your family take time to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Exercise boosts your mood and relieves stress and anxiety. Make sure that you and your family get outside to run and play and enjoy the day. Prioritize time for you and your family to get outside to run and play and enjoy your day. For inspiration on how to get active anywhere, anytime, on a budget, check out our #PoeFit series on Twitter.

Make a Gratitude List. A fun and helpful family activity that can also help reduce stress is writing a gratitude list. The end of the year is a great time to reflect back on what you are grateful for and a perfect time to share those thoughts together as a family. 

Enjoy the holidays with your loved ones and make sure to schedule time for you and your children to practice self-care. Keep an eye on your stress levels and take breaks when needed. Help your child take breaks and relax when you notice they are getting stressed. Although the holidays may be a favorite time of the year for some, it can also be a very difficult time for others and additional support may be needed. If you or a loved one is experiencing a crisis, there are resources available. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “MHA” to 741-741 to live chat with the Crisis Text Line. 

Follow the Poe Center on social media or visit our website to keep up on wellness information for the whole family.

Resources:

Harvard Health Publishing- 7 Ways to prevent holiday stress-for your children
Mayo Clinic: Stress Management
NAMI: Maintaining Mental Health during the Holiday Season (and a pandemic)

Resources to support Mental Wellness during holidays

Mental Health and the Holiday Blues
Beat Back the Holiday Blues
Supporting Children and Teens this Holiday Season 


Featured Poe Program: Dimensions of Wellness

Participants: Adults
Program Lengths: 90 minutes

As adults, we spend a lot of time caring for our children or others, and sometimes we forget our own self-care. This program will empower participants to explore the positives and negatives of stress and the effects ongoing stress can have on their mental, physical, and emotional health. Participants will have an opportunity to explore self-care strategies and develop a plan to develop a wellness routine. During the discussion, we will also cover how stress affects youth, including tips on increasing mental wellness, promoting coping strategies, and building resilience.

Programs may be presented online and are great for participating from home. Call (919) 231-4006 or visit poehealth.org/plan-a-program for details.


H.A.L.T. for Stress

Join Rebecca from the Poe Center as she leads a lesson on maximizing your mental health and managing stress! If you’re feeling stressed or like you’ve lost control of a situation, Rebecca has some tips for you. Follow along with this mini-lesson as she talks about stress and walks you through a process for identifying your stressors, called “H.A.L.T: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.” Hang out as Rebecca leads a breathing exercise, which is a great way to manage stress in your everyday life.