How to manage your mental health over the holidays

Are you in a good head space this holiday season? (Pexels stock image)

The holiday season typically goes hand in hand with parties and celebrations.

For many people, those are just some of the elements that make this time of year so fun.

But this is also a critically important time to prioritize and manage your mental health, said Andrea Taylor, PhD, a psychologist with UT Physicians.

Below, Taylor shared some of her top tips to keep your December merry and bright.

Simplify things.

Sit back and think about what is truly important and meaningful to you during the holidays.

By focusing on tasks and activities that increase your stress level, you decrease the enjoyment you should feel this time of year.

“When we take the time to consider what within the holidays are most important to us, that can help to provide guidance for what we want to focus our energy and attention on,” said Taylor, an assistant professor in the Louis A. Faillace, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston.

This change may mean declining an invitation to a party or not cooking a dish someone requested.

Saying “no” is acceptable if you’re otherwise agreeing to something will leave you feeling overextended or overwhelmed.

Plan ahead.

Of course, this time of year requires a lot of planning between gifting, parties, and other gatherings.

Taylor recommends examining your holidays and considering what you would like to include and what you can exclude.

“It’s all about giving yourself time to get things done so that you can enjoy yourself and not feel overly rushed,” she said.

Basic needs should come first.

This is a busy time of year — but you still need to prioritize your mental and physical health.

Getting enough sleep, exercising, limiting overindulging, taking your prescribed medications, and not skipping out on doctor’s appointments is critical to maintaining your basic needs.

“For those struggling with new or ongoing mental or emotional health issues, continue to work with your mental health care experts,” Taylor said. “If you are not under care, consider reaching out for help, especially if you find the holiday season difficult.”

Be present.

It’s easy to feel like there’s much to be done during the holidays, and rushing can happen.

Taylor suggests slowing down and engaging in thoughtful practices.

“Mindfulness practices and exercises can be very simple and allow us to slow down and really take in the beauty of our holiday experiences,” she said.

Examples of mindfulness exercises include taking a quiet walk, deep breathing, or even taking the time to slowly enjoy a meal instead of quickly eating.

Seek out help.

If you or your loved one are struggling with your mental health, resources are available for help.

Text HOME to 741741 to reach a volunteer at the Crisis Text Line. For those experiencing an urgent crisis, please contact 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Additionally, UT Physicians has experts available to help across the Greater Houston area. To schedule an appointment, visit this page or call 888-488-3627.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.