Five tips to protect your mental health during the holidays

Posted 11/21/23

It’s considered “the most wonderful time of year,” but to some, it’s anything but.

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Five tips to protect your mental health during the holidays


It’s considered “the most wonderful time of year,” but to some, it’s anything but. The stress and pressure of the holidays can begin to weigh heavy on even the jolliest person. Whether it’s hosting family, holiday shopping or baking, the list of obligations this season tends to run long.

For those battling mental health challenges, the holiday season may feel even more difficult — which may lead to increased anxiety and depression. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people living with a mental illness say their symptoms feel worse during the holidays.

To help prepare yourself for the season and protect your mental health, consider these tips from Dr. Danielle Madril, Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealthcare:

• Know your time and spending limits
To avoid a busy schedule that may have you feeling overwhelmed, learn to say no to some invitations. In cases where you can’t, try to find something else that can come off your calendar, so you don’t overextend yourself. Financial pressures can cause stress during and after the holidays. Set a realistic budget and stick to it. If money is tight, find low- and no-cost ways to show appreciation for the people in your life.

• Give yourself a break
If you feel tension or worry building up, spend a little time focused on something you enjoy about the season. Giving yourself alone time to unwind and perhaps practice mindfulness may help you recharge and feel better.

• Keep a gratitude journal
In the midst of the busy holiday season, it can be easy to forget the blessings in your life. Keeping a gratitude journal for this time of year can help you focus on the good that exists and improve your mood. The simple act of writing alone may even help boost your mental health.

• Don’t abandon good habits

A healthy lifestyle may also help you make it through the holiday rush. Try to stick to your normal sleep schedule, get regular exercise, eat nutrient-rich meals and be cautious about how often and how much you indulge. Going overboard may add stress and guilt.

• Access your mental health benefits
If you continue to struggle, consider talking to your health care provider or using other resources available through your health plan. Insurers like UnitedHealthcare offer behavioral health solutions that range from care for your mental health to treatment for substance use disorder.

mental health, stress, holidays, seasonal, depression