Mental Health

Preparing for the Holidays, with your Mental Health in Mind

By December 8, 2021No Comments

Holiday planning can be stressful and overwhelming. To help you prioritize your mental health and find more enjoyment from this time of year, here are IntraSpectrum Counseling’s top 10 holiday planning tips:

  1. Set Boundaries – keep the holidays from going awry before they even arrive, by remembering to set boundaries. Be realistic about what you can do / want to do. Don’t overcommit yourself – be sure to consider what’s already “on your list” before you accept more. Don’t feel bad about telling people what you are (and are not) willing to accomplish. If you are hosting or have preparation duties, take the initiative and ask other people to handle some of your normal responsibilities during this time.
  2. Create a Budget – don’t add financial worries to an already loaded time: set a budget, and (most importantly), stick to it. There are lots of creative ways to gift and celebrate with friends that don’t involve overspending. Holding yourself accountable to your budget will help ensure money issues don’t add to your holiday stress.
  3. Create a Plan – creating a spreadsheet, list or calendar that tracks everything you need to do can help you ease tension, not overextend yourself, and keep things manageable. This kind of organization can allow you to visualize what you can tackle. And once you have a plan, you can easily track your progress and see what’s still left to do. Triage / prioritize activities by dividing each one into categories based on what you: (1) have to do, (2) want to do, and (3) could pass on to someone else.
  4. Say No – this is truly one of the most empowering things you can do for your mental health. Don’t be afraid to turn down invitations to gatherings if you don’t have the time, or have genuine reasons why you don’t want to attend. Don’t feel as if you have to agree or go along with things because it’s what the group is doing, or what you’ve always done. Saying “no” can help you avoid unrealistic expectations, and can lift a lot of “weight” from your shoulders during the holidays.
  5. Face Your Feelings – it’s a good idea to take inventory on how you feel about the holidays and address those emotions in advance. Facing your feelings with mindfulness can help you overcome stressful times, become more aware of what you struggle with during this time of year, and give you the chance to confront those issues head-on. Acknowledging your emotions can also help you recognize which types of situations create the most stress, so you can avoid them if needed.
  6. Exercise Regularly – Exercise can be beneficial for both your physical and mental health. It releases natural hormones to give you an emotional boost, & makes you feel good. Physical activity also helps reduce stress, boosts your immune system and strengthens the body. Sticking to an exercise regimen also puts you in control of this aspect of your life, and is a great way to help balance a sometimes seemingly out-of-control holiday time. Plus, it can give you the mental strength to push through stress.
  7. Stay Social – lots of people respond to holiday stress by closing themselves off from others, which can contribute to seasonal depression. Don’t focus so much on that to-do list that you don’t also enjoy time with the people you love. Go out for lunch or spend special time with a friend or loved one. Reach out to others when you need help, instead of trying to do everything on your own. And even when you don’t need help, having the support & companionship of loved ones can be very beneficial!
  8. Practice Meditation, Yoga – taking time for yourself for daily meditation, yoga, or deep breathing can be very helpful when you feel overwhelmed or stressed. Meditation enables you to relax both your body and mind, to relieve tensions and enable you to slow down. Focusing on mindfulness and breathing can help you clear your mind and push aside frustrations. Try to find the time – and quiet space – before and during the holidays to do this each day, for you.
  9. Identify a Support Person – identify a trusted someone ahead of time, who will either be with you during a specific holiday gathering or can be accessible by phone. Approach them in advance with your feelings, and ask if they’d be able to help with support during the gathering. Having a support person present can help distract you from a triggering moment, and help change the subject during any awkward conversations. Create a code word to use so they know when you are feeling overwhelmed and may need some help. And if you need to call an off-site support person to help calm you or strategize, simply excuse yourself & temporarily leave the festivities for a more private space.
  10. Identify Some Coping Skills – developing a list of strategies and coping tools in advance, that you can use to create emotional space before each holiday gathering begins is a good way to help you soothe your emotions and anxiety. Deep breathing, journaling, meditation, listening to a favorite music playlist, or taking a brief nap or walk are good ways to find calm and re-center yourself.

This time of year can be stressful and anxiety-provoking for everyone. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the holidays or think you may have the holiday blues, please reach out to your therapist for support. IntraSpectrum Counseling is Chicago’s leading psychotherapy practice dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community, and we strive to provide the highest quality mental health care for multicultural, kink, polyamorous, and intersectional issues. For anyone needing affirming and validating support in their healing, please click here or email us at