We’ve set our clocks back, and the hours of daylight are steadily decreasing. As the holiday season continues, many people increase the amount of time that they spend with family members and friends. For some, this can bring on added responsibilities and stress around financial pressures for gift-giving or increased temptation to overeat and drink. Still others find the holidays a painful time of isolation and loneliness without strong and meaningful connections to communities of support. With all of these and many other kinds of social and environmental stressors, the holidays and winter season can feel like a minefield of triggers for people living with behavioral health conditions.

While there is no one-size-fits all to surviving the holidays there are some self-care choices we can make or encourage others to make that can help us to stay healthy and empowered:

  • Just say yes! If you find yourself inundated with a schedule of holiday activities, responsibilities, and invitations, give yourself permission to say no. Instead just say yes to a schedule of free time for self-care to create balance and pleasure.
  • Reach out. If you know that isolation and loneliness are common for you during the holidays, be pro-active and schedule some activities with peers and friends. Be on the lookout for invitations from others to activities that will affirm and support you where you are.
  • Get outside. Winter blues or seasonal depression can be overwhelming and can make us want to seek safety indoors. But one of the best ways to shift your mood is to get outdoors and get moving in the sunshine, even on a cold day. You may want to reach out to a family member or friend for support if it’s especially hard to get motivated to get out of the house.
  • Let there be light. Light boxes are a great and increasingly affordable way to brighten up the shorter days of the season. See the resource list below to find ways to get light boxes partially or fully covered by health insurance.
  • Be of Service. Doing something for someone else can be a great way to nurture your generous spirit. Explore the opportunities for holiday volunteering in your area through organizations like VolunteerMatch.com.
  • Honor whatever you’re feeling. There are many, varied ways to mark the end of the year according to your cultural, spiritual or religious practices or your personal beliefs or life circumstances. Try to accept and honor where you and others are. Lend support where you can and accept support when you are able. And remember that despite all the cheery social media posts, many people have a difficult time during the holiday season. You’re not alone!

Additional resources and tips to help you deal with the winter blues: