The semester’s almost over and everyone is starting to tap out of classes and focus on their gift list (I know I am), but we have to finish strong! Focus on those classes, pass those exams and stay on top of that homework, but let’s not forget about our mental state for the upcoming holidays. 

Here’s how you can maintain your mental health this gingerbread season. 

FACT: Holiday stress can impact your mental health, but there are ways to alleviate it. 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the holidays can be a joy-filled season, but they can also be stressful and challenging for those impacted by mental health problems. A NAMI study showed that 64 percent of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse. 

“For many people the holiday season is not always the most wonderful time of the year,” said NAMI Medical Director Ken Duckworth. 

On the bright side, there are a few suggestions that NAMI recommended for reducing stress and maintaining good mental health during the holidays. 

  1. Accept your needs. Be kind to yourself! Put your own mental and physical well-being first. Is shopping for holiday gifts stressful for you? Limit your time in busy stores and choose to shop online. Once you know this, you can take steps to avoid or cope with stress.
  2. Write a gratitude list and offer thanks. As we near the end of the year, it’s a good time to reflect back on what you are grateful for and thank those who have supported you. Gratitude has been shown to drastically improve mental health. Is there something or someone for whom you are grateful?
  3. Manage your time and don’t try to do too much. Prioritizing your time and activities can help you use your time well. Making a day-to-day schedule helps ensure you don’t feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks. It’s okay to say no to plans that don’t fit into your schedule or make you feel good.
  4. Be realistic. Even before the pandemic, the happy lives of the people shown in those holiday commercials are fictional. We all have struggles one time or another and it’s not realistic to expect otherwise. Sometimes, it’s simply not possible to find the perfect gift or have a peaceful time with family, so take it step-by-step and acknowledge the beauty in imperfection. 
  5. Set boundaries. Family dynamics can be complex. Acknowledge them and accept that you can only control your role. If you need to, find ways to limit your exposure.
  6. Practice relaxation and self-care. Deep breathing and meditation are good ways to calm yourself. Taking a break to refocus can have benefits beyond the immediate moment. Schedule time for activities that make you feel good. It might be reading a book, going to the movies, listening to music you love or taking your dog for a walk. It’s okay to prioritize alone time. 
  7. Get enough sleep. Symptoms of some mental health conditions can be triggered by getting too little sleep. Make sure to get the seven to eight hours you need to thrive. 
  8. Eat well. With dinners, parties and cookie trays, our eating habits are challenged during the holiday season. Try to maintain a healthy diet through it all. Eating unprocessed foods like whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit is the foundation for a healthy body and mind. 
  9. Spend time in nature. Studies show that time in nature reduces stress. Need to break away from family during a holiday gathering? Take a walk in a local park or get some fresh air. It can be very beneficial to take a nature break. 
  10. Find support. Whether it’s with friends, family, a counselor or a support group, airing out and talking can help. Reach out to those you trust or a professional for the support that you deserve.