MHS Psychologist Helps Families Prepare for the Holidays with Mental Health Tips
By Kristen Parys, Ph.D., NCSP, MHS Psychologist
The holiday season can be filled with joy, but it also can be stressful and challenging for some. Whether families are navigating change, coping with loss, or experiencing heightened expectations, it is important to realize seasonal triggers so emotions and situations can be managed effectively.
These mental health tips are good reminders as you go into the holiday season. We are all dealing with our own situations and the holidays could amplify those struggles. The key is to decide what’s important to you and your family, prioritize your to-do lists and schedule, but most importantly, find the joy in what you are able to accomplish.
It’s okay to not be okay! You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. Kids pick up on the stress and tension coming from adults, so if we’re irritable, chances are they will be as well. Stress could contribute to worsening mental health systems so it’s vital that you make efforts to prioritize your own mental and physical well-being. When you feel triggered, remember to take deep breathes, take a walk outside, or take a moment for the self-care practice that works for you. Also, remember that sometimes self-care is simply saying “no” when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Family dynamics can be complex. Whether it’s personality clashes, long-standing conflict, or differences in opinion, accept that you can only control your role and involvement. Instead of worrying about what might go wrong, make a plan for how you will remove yourself from negative situations or conversations. This plan will help decrease your anxiety and allow you to focus on the aspects of these relationships that are positive.
Be Open to Change
Talk about your traditions and recognize when they might need to evolve if family dynamics have changed in the past year. Find new ways to celebrate typical traditions and discover new holiday activities together. This can be a great way to make the holidays special. Also, allowing kids to be a part of decision making can help to offset some of their difficult feelings as they navigate the changes too.
Discuss Health and Safety Plans
As we continue to adapt to the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to establish expectations in advance. Communicate clearly about safety measures for any holiday gatherings, such as wearing masks, that so family members can understand who is comfortable with what. The more predictability we can create when things are uncertain, the better.
Set Realistic Expectations
Give yourself grace this holiday season. It’s impossible to do everything and be everywhere. The holidays naturally come with changes to everyday schedules which could be unsettling for kids as well as adults. Preparing kids for these changes by communicating about the day’s agenda and providing details about the events and who will be at them will help level set your expectations, avoid meltdowns, and create the best possible scenario for a happy holiday.