7 Tips For Great Mental Health For The Holidays

By Melissa Shrader Editor Publisher Fort Collins Macaroni Kid November 22, 2023

The holidays are a time of gathering with friends and family. It's a time of hustle and bustle getting everything just perfect. Getting the house decorated just so, planning parties, gathering donations, volunteering, holiday school shows. Everything packed into a short month!

We have some tips to help you keep up with your mental health and wellness.

Keep holiday expectations modest 

The holidays are a wonderful time of year for most. Expectations for how the house should look, and how a party should go may get elevated into an unrealistic view. Try to keep a handle on what you expect and what may really happen. We tend to get an idea in our head and an expectation that may not match what actually happens. It can be a let down. Try to be present and not build up a situation. Be grateful for what is happening at the current moment. 

Try to manage your expectation of others 

You may have a vision of the family gathering going smoothly but in reality there may be tension in the family. Just be aware that there may be tensions that just come naturally to some. Keep your expectations to a minimum and remember you can't control others but you can control yourself and your expectations and reactions. 

Monitor Yourself and Your reactions 

Be aware of your feelings and your thoughts. Monitor your emotions. Be aware of emotional trigger points and tension levels. Pick a level to give yourself a break to decompress. Pick a practice to help drop your anxiety level. Listen to some music, count to 10, do deep breathing, go for a walk, find something you can do to reduce your own tension and anxiety. After time you will develop self awareness enough to engage in self care before you reach your boiling point. 

Plot out a plan

Check in with yourself and monitor stress levels, sadness, anxiety, boiling point etc. Make your plan to get back to your happy place. Try calling a friend, walking, listening to music, reading, watching your favorite show, making a craft or doing a hobby. 

Avoid Hot Topics - Politics, Religion. To engage or To let it be. Empathy.

If you know that there will be a reaction to a topic, consider keeping certain opinions quiet. If your family is open to having open conversations without judgement then have conversations with confidence. If not, certain things that trigger people should be kept to a minimum. Decern what topics are comfortable and what aren't. If someone else brings up a topic that's a trigger, you can choose not to be part of the discussion. Remember everyone has an opinion, and it may not align with yours or others and engaging in the conversation may escalate the situation. When topics, opinions and judgments come up try to consider the other person's point of view. Keep tone and sarcasm in check. Approach conversations with curiosity and understanding, don't judge the conversation or person.  

Inhale - Exhale 

Just breathe. Sounds easy right? It is. When you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and rushed, breathing techniques can be very effective. I use either box breathing or 4,7,8 breathing. 

Box Breathing goes like this

Take a breath in

Exhale for a count of 4 

Hold for a count of 4 

Inhale for a count of 4 

4,7,8 Breathing goes like this: 

Inhale for a count of 4 

Hold for a count of 7 

Exhale for a count of 8 

Teddy Bear Breathing works great for kids (and adults too) 

Place one hand on your chest

Place a teddy bear, toy, or hand on your belly 

Slowly breathe in through your nose feeling air move down to your tummy

Purse your lips and exhale slowly for a few seconds

Watch the teddy bear move up and down and feel with your hand how little your chest moves. 


The holidays can be a time of grief as many people have lost loved ones. It's a balance of grief and ignoring feelings. You don't want to go too far into either. Don't dwell on sad memories but bring to light the happy times. Set up an area for those you've lost and write down happy memories - for any sad ones that come up - feel them but don't dwell on them. Talk to friends and family about the happy memories. Feel your feelings but don't get caught up in them. 

Connection is key

If you don't have anyone to share the holiday with, spend some time with other families. You can find other families who don't have friends and family close to spend the day with. You can find them through church, clubs, volunteering, cultural centers, LGBTQ centers, Single mom's groups, Single dad's groups etc. Find a community and spend time with other like minded individuals. 

If you feel hopeless and overwhelmed you can call 988 for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.