Mental Health

Take Care of Yourself this Holiday Season


There’s no getting around it: The holidays are going to look and feel very different from years past.

The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted what would normally be a time to gather and celebrate with loved ones near and far. Typical activities, like shopping for gifts and baking cookies with family, carry a serious risk of spreading infection.

And for many people, the holiday season is already a tough and stressful time of year. If you’re struggling to feel cheery right now, this is a good time to turn your focus toward some extra self-care. Here are some ways to shift your outlook and enjoy the holidays.

Make new, COVID-friendly traditions. The changes we are experiencing don’t have to leave you feeling powerless. Take the reins and plan ahead on the best ways to adapt your traditions to fit the new normal. You may decide to light the candles on the menorah via FaceTime instead of in person or send your family members matching ornaments to feel close to them. Whatever way you choose to adapt and stay safe, remember that you are in control of making the best of the situation.

Replace New Year’s resolutions with holiday resolutions. Stressful times can actually be a good opportunity to recognize the positive changes you’d like to make in your life. Take some time in the beginning of this month to take note of the ways that you’d like to change for the better. Whether your resolution is practicing more patience or eating healthier, implement these practices before the new year – it may help you to better manage the stress that arises during the holidays. 

Make a mindfulness Advent calendar. It’s exciting to count down the days until Christmas by opening the daily treats in an Advent calendar. Your Advent calendar can take an additional form this year as a daily mindfulness practice. Treat yourself by learning a new mindfulness technique each day to reduce stress and nurture your mental health. We like the ideas described here, here, and here

Don’t want to give gifts? Try giving your time. Social interaction is a gift to both yourself and others! Feeling isolated is one of the most difficult parts of the pandemic. Isolation can lead to depression, so get ahead of the loneliness by proactively connecting with friends and family in a safe manner. Catch up over the phone with your distant relatives or take time writing thoughtful Christmas cards to your friends and colleagues. You’ll be reminded of how comforting it can be to simply talk and feel heard.

Taking the necessary precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19 is hard, especially during a time of year that is built upon traditions. But we can still feel close to our loved ones while maintaining everyone’s safety. Erring on the side of caution ensures that there will be many more holiday celebrations in the future.  

  • Michael Young, MD

    Medical Director, The Retreat by Sheppard Pratt
    Adult Psychiatry, Anxiety Disorders, Mood Disorders, Personality Disorders