Mental Health
How To Take Care Of Your Mental Health Over The Holidays

How To Take Care Of Your Mental Health Over The Holidays

6 min read


Caitlin Harper

Whether we’re separated from the ones we love, we’ve lost people close to us, or we’re mourning the loss of our norms and traditions, this year, the holidays look different for a lot of us.

Some people advocate for recreating holiday traditions you love even though you might be far apart from friends and family. My family is meeting (albeit over Zoom) to make holiday decorations together, something we used to do every year when we were kids.

Others recommend creating entirely new traditions so you can do the holidays your way. One thing I tried over Thanksgiving was making exactly what dishes I wanted to make (and were easier for me) instead of following my family recipes to the letter. Still others are happy about not having to participate in traditional holiday celebrations at all. Whatever you choose to do over the holidays, they’re a great time to focus on your mental health.

“The holidays can be a fruitful time to revisit and set traditions for ourselves,” said Alexander Beznes, a NYC therapist and MyWellbeing community member. “Try to create a new ritual or ceremony that makes you feel present and grateful for the moment—think of how you could bring back or honor old traditions or find new creative outlets that make you feel grounded and connected to loved ones.”

Just as there’s not one way to celebrate the holiday season, there’s not one way to take care of your mental health. If you’re looking for some new ideas, we’ve collected a few creative ways to take care of your mental health over the holidays from the MyWellbeing team and community.

Enjoy your favorite foods

“For me, [taking care of my mental health over the holidays means] baking tons of treats!” said Ryan Ward, MyWellbeing’s Sales Development Representative. “I will watch a GBBO MasterClass episode on Netflix and try to remake it, which typically turns into me saying ‘Oh that's not what it's supposed to look like.’”

“That’s not what it’s supposed to look like” is an entire mood this year, which is why it’s more important than ever to nurture both our minds and our bodies. Whether you’re rekindling old traditions or trying out new ones, take time to treat yourself and practice body positivity this holiday season.

While we advocate for doing (and eating!) what makes you happy and fulfills you, not everyone is fortunate enough to have access to the food they need. Donating to your local food bank can help those who need it most. Plus, giving stimulates the reward center in the brain, releasing endorphins and creating what is known as the “helper’s high,” so you’ll be able to do good and feel good, too.

Have a little you time over the holidays

The holidays are a great time to self reflect and spend some time on you, especially this year, when we might have more time on our hands without travel or typical holiday activities.

"Write words of encouragement to yourself,” said Dr. Alice Rizzi, a NYC psychologist and MyWellbeing community member. “A simple sign to ‘pause’ may be enough to help you get off auto-pilot mode. To go the extra mile, try a phrase like, ‘Alice, you have everything you need to get through this day!’ When you use your own name, it has a similar effect as though someone else were saying it.”

“So if you enjoy getting support from others (or even if you don’t), try supporting yourself. ‘Alice, I’m so proud of you. I know you’re doing the best you can.’ It’s okay if it feels uncomfortable at first. Keep trying it. If it’s painful to do, it may be worthwhile to journal about it and ask yourself what’s coming up for you. Is it that no one has said these things to you before? Do they feel untrue? Can you let yourself grow into them?"

Either because winter weather keeps us inside or because we want to stay connected to friends and family, there’s a good chance that many of us will be glued to our phones over the holidays as well. But time away from screens is great for your mental health.

“This year I’m planning a day that focuses inwards and recharges,” said Faith Deutschle, MyWellbeing’s Social Lead. “Goal setting. Taking Skillshare classes. Yoga. Maybe taking a walk alone. Perhaps even putting my phone on (gasp) airplane mode.”

Get some exercise

You don’t have to be a turkey trot fanatic or a polar bear swim regular to get some exercise over the holidays. Aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression and improve mental health, self-esteem, and cognitive function.

"Move your body as much as you can!” said Hayden Humphrey, a success coach and MyWellbeing community member. “During the holidays, and during winter, it’s especially easy to stay inside and lounge around. But staying sedentary will keep your energy in a low, lethargic state, making it easier for stress, anxiety, and overwhelm to creep up on you. Try doing group Zoom workouts with friends, stand while you watch TV or work, and bundle up for regular walks outside."

Exercise doesn’t mean just going to the gym. Check out free yoga or workout videos on Youtube. Dance around your apartment. Walk to the grocery store or stroll around your neighborhood and enjoy the holiday decorations. When it comes to exercise, doing what you enjoy is what is most important for building healthy habits.

Give yourself a gift this holiday season

Self-nurturance—treating yourself with respect, love and compassion—fosters both the physical and psychological health requisite to our happiness. And part of self-nurturance is treating yourself.

“This year, I bought myself a pair of socks with a tiger pattern so that I can feel fierce and strong while wearing them—and warm,” said Alyssa Petersel, Founder & CEO of MyWellbeing. “I can also do some meditations while paying very close attention to my feet and the material on my feet.”

Nurturing treats aren’t a quick fix to alter our mood, escape boredom, or dull pain and they don’t have to be big or expensive. They’re small, meaningful ways to show ourselves that we deserve to be treated well and they can boost our self esteem and happiness. Tiger socks for everyone!

Spend some time in nature

It makes me feel good to go outside every day. I feel even better if I walk down to the waterfront, which I used to be able to do from my office, even though I rarely did (because I felt obligated to overwork and wouldn’t take time for myself—separate but related problem!). Now that I work from home a few miles from the waterfront, I can’t believe I didn’t walk to the waterfront more often when I had the chance. Even now, working from home, there are entire days when I don’t go outside.

When New York was in total lockdown, I only left my house once a week for groceries. It was cold anyway, but it still had a huge impact on my mental health. This holiday season, I’m going to make it a point to go outside every day, no matter what. Oftentimes, it seems like a hassle to get my coat and shoes on and walk all the way downstairs, but I know I always feel better when I do, so I’ll try to get into a routine over the holiday when I won’t be under as much pressure during the workday and carry that over into the new year.

“This year I'm going to plan a long hike somewhere we've never been and I’m thinking of maybe including a simple (lightweight) picnic,” said Brooke Wilson, MyWellbeing’s Project Manager. “This year is gonna be hard and I know keeping my body moving and being in nature (even if it’s wintery and gloomy) will be uplifting for my mental health.”

Create your plan to start therapy in the new year

Another way we can take care of our mental health is to work with a therapist to get the support we deserve. As we reflect on our year and plan for the next, the holidays are a great time to make a plan to find a therapist. It can be a bit of a hurdle to find mental health care, but we have plenty of resources on our site to get you started and you can always use our matching service to find your perfect match.

Whatever you choose to do this holiday season, make sure nurturing your mental health is part of your plan. Whether it’s an old holiday tradition or a new one, either way, it’s well-deserved.

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About the author

Caitlin is an organizational change strategist, advisor, writer, and the founder of Commcoterie, a change management communication consultancy. She helps leaders and the consultants who work with them communicate change for long-lasting impact. Caitlin is a frequent speaker, workshop facilitator, panelist, and podcast guest on topics such as organizational change, internal communication strategy, DEIBA, leadership and learning, management and coaching, women in the workplace, mental health and wellness at work, and company culture. Find out more, including how to work with her, at

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