Mental Health During the Holidays

later middle aged couple smiling at the beach, woman's eyes are closed and man is looking down at her embracing her

Between the tasks, celebrations, and family obligations, the holiday season can be a trying time for anyone. Whether you feel the holiday blues or are coping with feelings that aren’t merry and bright, taking care of your mental health during the holidays is important. Think of it as a gift you can unwrap for yourself!

You also may not know where to start. It wasn’t always easy to mention mental health struggles or be open about them — however, as modern society grows more and more conscious of the importance of taking care of yourself, discussing mental health is no longer taboo but vital to mental wellness and peace of mind.

If you’re not sure where to start managing your mental health, we’re here to help. Read on for easy tips that will hopefully help you find some peace during this stressful holiday season and into the new year.

You’re Not Alone

Let’s start with one important thing everyone should know: You’re not alone — even if it feels like you are. Though you may feel like your experiences are yours alone, plenty of people have been there too. A 2021 survey showed that three in five Americans feel the holidays negatively impact their mental health. It’s a time that can bring up complicated emotions about family, tradition, and relationships — not always easy to navigate!

And if you’re someone who has a mental illness, a change in your condition is a common trait. In 2014, NAMI found that 64% of people with mental illness said the holidays worsen their conditions. You may need additional help and seek self-care to make managing your mental health simple and more effective. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s always important to be accountable for your well-being. You deserve the extra effort.

couple smiling together in field, Mental Health During the Holidays

Taking Care of Your Mental Health During the Holidays

So, how can you get to a better place? Starting with some quick tips can lay the foundation for emotional growth and well-being. The following are just a few things that make taking care of your mental health during the holidays possible. Please note we are not professionals, but we hope you can put these tools to use and invest in yourself.

Tips for Managing Mental Health

1. Set Aside Time for Yourself

Sometimes, you need to decompress and assess where you are and what you feel. Quality alone time can be a great way to destress and make meaningful steps toward improving your mental health. Whether it’s through journaling, a hobby, or watching television, some alone time can do you plenty of good.

2. Keep a Regular Sleep and Exercise Schedule

Rest is so, so important. It allows you to recharge and help your body function optimally. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule will make you feel great, keep you awake, and ensure you are on your way to feeling your best.

Adding exercise to your day is also a great way to manage your mental health. Activity can release dopamine and make you feel good — plus, your body will thank you for keeping it moving! Even walking the dog each day can make a difference. You’ll be glad you did.

3. Set Boundaries

It can be hard to speak up, especially in front of friends and family. Too often, we feel like our relationships need to be perfect or uninterrupted. That goes double for families or friend groups that are close-knit. However, issues DO occur — even with the ones we love. Setting boundaries is so important, and it doesn’t mean you’re anything but considerate of your mental well-being, so long as you do so with care and respect for all involved.

Speak up if something bothers you, be gentle but sure, and stand firm in your beliefs. It’s okay to feel your emotions, share them, and separate yourself from anything that can make maintaining your mental health challenging. When you speak your mind, you’ll find relief and be more confident as you move forward. Do what you can; don’t settle or try to compensate with something you can’t.

4. Accept Your Feelings

When you picture the holiday season, a few things come to mind: snow, presents, and decorations. Plus, everyone seems very happy. It’s almost like it’s a requirement! You must take the time to assess your well-being and search for your feelings. As the adage goes, it’s okay not to feel okay. Feeling sad or stressed during the holiday season is nothing new and should be more accepted. You may feel not-so-jolly during this time, and we want you to remember that it’s not only okay but that you should take the time to accept how you feel and work through your emotions as they are.

5. Try Relaxation Techniques

When you feel overwhelmed, it’s a good idea to relax and destress as much as possible. Connecting to your body and mind to care for yourself can make stressful times easier. You can go large or small with these! Deep breathing exercises, yoga, walks, you name it: Taking the time to relax will help you feel great and rested and is always worth the effort.

6. Keep Expectations Manageable

As you go through holiday gatherings and interact with family and friends, you may not hit every mark with your interactions. Maybe someone isn’t feeling as festive as you. On the other hand, maybe someone is too excited about the holidays for your taste. It’s valid for all parties involved to feel their feelings and experience things as they do.

Making manageable expectations keeps you balanced and saves you from disappointment. Take the time to assess how things are going, and how they could go, and prepare for each outcome. You’ll be glad you thought of everything and aren’t surprised by anything that can spur difficult emotions. If you’re unclear about what to expect (a swap gift price, your holiday bonus, who to expect at dinner), take the time to communicate and measure your expectations against reality.

7. Spend Time with Supportive People

One key component of a healthy life and mind? Surround yourself with people who lift you, support you, and care about you. You don’t have to tolerate people that hurt you or don’t appreciate your value. This holiday season — and every other day you can — make sure you’re spending time with people who see you and accept you for who you are.

By keeping your company supportive and kind, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself and even talk to someone while managing your mental health during the holidays. Of course, the best kind of help is seeing a professional, but it’s always a bonus to have quality company to make your activities that much better.

8. Seek Professional Help If You Need to

Some difficulties are best suited for a professional to handle. There’s no problem with seeking help, and we always welcome the idea of healing through professionals. There are so many options these days, too: online therapy and similar services are becoming more and more commonplace.

With professional help, you’ll be able to identify and understand what you’re experiencing with your mental health. Professional assistance doesn’t solve everything instantly, but it is certainly helpful for those willing to have an open mind and keep practicing. Help is always available, so don’t be afraid to seek it out.

Organizations That are Here to Help

Professionals and organizations are available to help you manage holiday depression. We encourage you to seek the following:

Remember: People are willing to help, listen, and provide support. It’s never too late to make a positive change!

We know how difficult the holiday season can be, and maintaining mental health during the holidays can make things even tougher. Don’t feel alone if you find yourself less than jolly this holiday season.

woman turned to look at camera and smiling

Self-Care Is Always Important

National University understands the importance of supporting mental health and is breaking barriers to education with a whole-human approach to your success: You’ll get the academic, career, financial, emotional, and family support you need to stay on track, finish faster, and reach your personal and professional goals. We encourage you to take the steps you need to feel your best.

Partnering with NU ensures you or your employees have the whole-human care they need to succeed and thrive. Are you interested in learning more about our whole-human approach and student health services? You can partner with us to deliver the whole-human educational experience to your employees. They’ll get the academic degree(s) and training necessary to stay on-pace with the ever-changing workforce, plus our stellar services from our Five Pillars of Support:


  • Unlimited free tutoring
  • Experiential learning opportunities
  • Academic Success Center and Writing Center


  • Needs-based Key Grant
  • Opportunity Scholarship
  • Financial aid guidance and 1:1 assistance


  • Alumni Mentoring Network
  • Career services, planning, and counseling
  • Job portal with access to employers and job postings

Family & Community

  • Family-friendly online and on-site activities
  • Student organizations, clubs, events, and blog
  • Flexible courses to balance family, work, and school

Social and Emotional

  • Student social and emotional services
  • Care Team and 1:1 solutions-focused counseling
  • On-demand well-being and behavioral health solutions

Click here or contact [email protected] to learn more about NU and learn how to partner with us. Happy holidays, and take the time to take care of yourself!

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