• Happy Thanksgiving Day! Autumn feast. Family sitting at the table and celebrating holiday. Grandparents, mother, father and children. Traditional dinner.

    Winter Mental Health Tips for Holiday Gatherings

    Family gatherings and holiday events aren’t exciting for everyone. In many cases, the mere thought of seeing family for the holidays is enough to induce a panic attack. If you’re struggling with an upcoming event, these winter mental health tips can help you navigate the stress and protect your personal wellbeing.

    Identify Your Personal Boundaries

    Positive mental health typically requires boundaries. These are rules or invisible shields you put in place to protect yourself from stress, trauma, anxiety or depression. Each person has their own boundaries. Knowing yours can prepare you for difficult situations over the holidays.

    For example, your boundary may be that you do not want to talk about politics during a holiday gathering. Your family may have opposing views that lead to stressful arguments. Remove that topic from discussion, and you could bypass many of your triggers.

    Communicate your boundaries to your family members so they can be aware of your needs. If they choose to cross the boundaries or disrespect them, you can ignore them or leave the situation entirely.

    Get Plenty of Sleep before Holiday Gatherings

    Sleep is crucial for good mental health. You may struggle to sleep from pending stress, but try to rest as much as possible. This gives your brain a chance to sort through emotions, which can prepare you for a calm experience on the ‘big day.’ Learn more: How to Get Better Sleep for Better Mental Health

    Anticipate Anxiety Triggers and Pre-Plan Solutions for Them

    You’ll do your best to avoid anxiety triggers during the holiday gathering, but sometimes, they’re unavoidable. Prepare for those moments in advance so you have a plan in place that you can execute.

    If being around a lot of noise triggers your anxiety, identify areas of the house or property where you could go for relief. More than half of Americans have 10+ attendees at holiday dinners, so it’s wise to anticipate this trigger. When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, excuse yourself from the gathering and re-establish your peace.

    If a conversation is making you feel uncomfortable, tell the person you aren’t comfortable and you’d like to talk about something else. You have more power than you may realize! This all come back to setting and maintaining boundaries to keep your mental health on a positive trajectory.

    Bring a Friend with You or Have a Support System on Standby

    If possible, bring a friend or significant other with you to act as your support system during the holidays. If that isn’t an option, have someone from your support system on standby if you need to call, text, video chat, or reach out for support. Having that lifeline accessible may be all you need to curb the stress during the holidays, but if not, you have someone available to vent to.

    Know When to Say “No” to Family Events

    The truth is, you don’t have to attend your family gathering. It’s good to make an attempt when you can because it allows you to strengthen bonds with your family members. But it is entirely possible that those bonds are debilitating to you. In that case, know when to say “no,” and make your needs the primary focus.

    Get Personalized Mental Health Tips from Your Therapist

    If you have a therapist, talk to him or her about ways to manage stress during holiday gatherings. Your therapist has a close understanding of your past experiences and your mental health needs. He or she can provide custom tips that are catered to your lifestyle and personality. Be transparent about your worries or what you think may happen over the holidays. This will help your therapist create the best mental health plan for you.