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Mental Wellness During the Upcoming Holiday Season

Prepare for the holidays by finding a new holiday season routine.

Key points

  • Holiday season expectations can create anxiety and stress.
  • Planning for the holiday season includes planning for one's mental wellbeing.
  • It's best to access a diverse variety of qualified professionals to support one's holiday mental health.

As we approach our first holiday season with increased engagement in social activities since the COVID-19 pandemic, this is not the time to return to the old normal ways you dealt with the holidays. No doubt, it feels more comfortable to pick up where you left off in the 2019 holiday season, especially as holidays are rich with family, friends, religious, national, and cultural traditions. However, it’s time to create new traditions that prioritize your health and the health of others including a committed focus on mental wellness.

It’s time for you to fully understand that part of the pandemic demise on a personal level was the disregard some societies had for healthcare and a chronic unwillingness to practice self-awareness. American popular culture has saturated the globe and filled the space formerly occupied by British and European colonial culture and its ideologies of monarchies, excessive wealth, and resource hoarding. This belief system caused a massive disregard for global health and global actions that supported the focus on outward appearance and wealth over mental health, physical health, and meaningful, purposeful living.

We should not continue past traditions without taking the time to re-evaluate the harm and stress these traditions caused and are still causing. For example, the anxiety of spending time with family and friends, or excessive alcohol consumption, overeating, and other behaviors that impact your physical and mental health and the physical and mental health of others. Justifications that it’s only this one event, or feeling obligated to engage in that office party, peer events, or family commitments that harm or cause stress, or even the traditional holiday activities that uphold racism, sexism, ableism, or other social harms.

As more psychologists and therapists with diverse backgrounds and lifestyles enter the field of mental health and therapy, bringing their lived experiences similar to those of their clients, we will begin to experience a revolution in mental health practices, information, and research—the Mental Health Revolution. Opportunities to seek therapists with diverse backgrounds, lived experiences, varied schools of thought, and a wide range of training to address the challenges that surface during the holiday season which we may ignore or suppress to just “get through the holidays.”

Imagine putting the same preparation and effort into holiday season mental wellness that you put into looking good and shopping for the right clothes, shoes, jewelry, and gifts to make yourself the center of attention at the holiday events? You may even be one of those individuals who starts planning your holiday events in the spring or summer each year. So apply that effort to your mental wellness.

Self-Evaluation

Self-evaluation includes the process of engaging self-awareness and self-reflection into a practice of regularly—ideally it should be daily—examining your thoughts, words, and actions in the context of systemic structures and social conditioning, and being able to critically evaluate yourself, your thoughts, and actions. For example, asking yourself questions like, if you constantly complain about spending time with your relatives and friends during the holidays, and find yourself making fun of these individuals or feeling anxious, then you would ask yourself why you continue to interact with these individuals. This is where a qualified psychologist and/or therapist can be helpful. You will have an opportunity, in a safe and healing environment, to examine how these experiences shape your mental health and wellness.

Now imagine taking the time at this moment to build a regular practice of self-evaluation as you approach times that typically have been challenging or stressful or produce anxiety, to seek qualified psychological professionals to support you in creating an improved holiday season experience?

Qualified psychological professionals are trained psychologists, often licensed, who have formal training from accredited academic institutions, and continue their education and scholarship with lifelong learning. As the field of psychology is addressing its own lack of equity and diversity in race, gender, sexual orientation, accessibility, and socio-economic status, you will be able to find more qualified psychologists and mental health professionals with rich scholarship, applied research backgrounds, and interdisciplinary skills providing a wide range of support for your mental wellbeing journey.

Mental health should be a lifetime practice, and along with qualified psychological professionals, you may consider incorporating mental wellness support from qualified social support groups, peer groups, and other groups that are able to provide unbiased support, including family members and spiritual/religious organizations.

Prepare for this holiday season by adding mental health to your holiday list and honor your mental wellbeing.

To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

References

CDC (2021). Health equity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/healthequity/index.htm

Courtney, B., & Widmar, N. O. (2020). Consistently biased: Documented consistency in self-reported holiday healthfulness behaviors and associated social desirability bias. Humanities & Social Sciences Communications, 7(1)http://dx.doi.org.tcsedsystem.idm.oclc.org/10.1057/s41599-020-00665-x

Ojelade, I. I., McCray, K., Meyers, J., & Ashby, J. (2014). Use of Indigenous African Healing Practices as a mental health intervention. Journal of Black Psychology, 40(6), 491–519. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095798414533345

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