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Holiday Self-Care Tips from the Mental Health First Aid Community

The holiday season can be a time filled with joy, love and family. But financial stress, busy social calendars and high expectations during this time of year can make the season less than merry and bright for many.

Taking time for self-care can make a huge difference when it comes to staying happy and healthy through the holidays, so we asked our community of Mental Health First Aiders and Instructors what their favorite holiday self-care tips were. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Spend Quality Time
    “Spend time with people you enjoy being around – someone who listens to you, makes you laugh and makes you feel that you are valuable and important to them. It could be a family member, friend, co-worker or someone from your faith community.  I began doing this about two years ago and it’s made a world of difference for me. I start out the month of December getting together with friends. We laugh a lot! Enjoy great food and have a really good time together!” – Cindy G.
  • HALT
    “I use the HALT principle.  Each line starts with, ‘Don’t allow yourself to get too…’
  • H – Hungry
    A – Angry
    L –  Lonely
    T – Tired
  • It works!” – Linda S.
  • Practice Gratitude
    “Reminding yourself: you have so much to be grateful for already—life, health, family, friends, support…you don’t need extra gifts, money, parties, etc. to give you MORE or that will give you more than the genuine ‘gifts’ you already obtain.” – Joanna S.
  • Exercise
    “Although it can be trying, exercise is an excellent way to reduce stress, burn off the extra calories from all the delicious food, and will also help to get your mind off substances.” – Carlinda J.

“I come in early, set up my office, then walk a mile to deal with the day’s stress–rain, snow, sleet or shine (no hail!).  Boots, umbrellas and coats take care of the excuses.  People now look up and smile when they see me.” – Cindy K.

  • Set Boundaries
    “Set boundaries for yourself based on what you know that you are able to handle and then let partners and family know what your boundaries are ahead of time so that they don’t expect more from you than what you can give.  For example, I have learned that my limit for spending time with a house full of family members in general is about one full day.  Extending this time has led me to have mental health breakdowns.  However, my family is accustomed to spending several days at a time together on holidays, spending nights at our parents’ home.  I have learned to let my parents and partner know that our limit is one day and then we need to leave.  While they have not been able to comprehend why I need to leave and don’t ‘agree’ with my decision, they are able to comprehend the limits that I set.” – Anonymous
  • Enjoy the Little Things
    “My favorite holiday self-care tip is to take a break from the hustle and bustle by getting bundle up in my warm winter coat, hat, and gloves and walking around my neighborhood looking at the holiday lights.” – Kimberly L.

It can be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but figuring out what helps you stay centered—and giving yourself permission to take the time out for YOU—can make an enormous difference for maintaining good mental health all season long.

Thank you to our wonderful community for providing these excellent tips.

If you have a self-care tip you’d like to share, join our Twitter chat on Thursday, December 21 from 2-3 p.m. ET. We’d love to hear from you.