Caring for Your Mental Health While Navigating the Holidays

It can be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be one of the most challenging.  

On top of our weekly responsibilities, there can be added financial stress of buying presents or hosting family and friends, answering questions that come with family visits, and managing an overwhelming schedule of events that disrupts our regular routine.  

Some of us feel pressure to act happier than we actually feel, or we may feel lonely if we aren’t able to visit with family or friends. Struggles with eating disorders or alcohol use disorder can escalate as it may be difficult to stick to a plan when parties encourage eating or drinking.  

Thankfully, there are many ways to navigate the holidays while keeping your mental health at the forefront:

  • Stick to a routine as much as possible. Don’t cancel your therapy sessions or the activities you do for yourself that help calm you when your schedule feels too packed. 

  • Care for your physical health. Make sure you’re eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and making time for exercise – even if it’s a light walk here and there. These tasks can get swept aside with busy holiday schedules, but caring for your body translates to caring for your mind.  

  • Set realistic expectations and stick to them. Whether it's your budget or your time, be realistic about what you can do and recognize that this might mean that you’ll do less than in previous years.  

  • Set limits for drinking. If you’re working to cut down on drinking or to stop all together, try to avoid situations where alcohol is involved. Even if alcohol misuse isn't a concern, don’t turn to alcohol if you’re feeling down or lonely. It will only make you feel worse.   

  • Take time for yourself. This means different things for different people. It might mean taking some time away from a family party to take a walk, prioritizing your laundry, or making sure you don’t miss your monthly book club meeting. It’s important to make time for whatever it is that you need. 

The holiday season brings a lot of opportunities for fun, but can also cause stress due to high expectations. It’s key to keep your mental health a priority during more stressful seasons. If you feel like you need additional support or just want to do a quick check-up on your mental health, take a free, anonymous, confidential screening at or visit the MindKare® Kiosk in McGlinn Cancer Institute Lobby.