Skip to main content

Ideas for a healthier holiday season – both mentally and physically

Multi-generational family having dinner.

Plus, how to “give back” when you’re already shopping.

The holidays can be a stressful time.  Whatever the season, it’s important for us to take care of our mental health. 

Here are a few suggestions to consider:

As you’re shopping for others, buy something simple and inexpensive that will help you have peace of mind through the holidays and beyond. That could be a book on mindfulness. Or a meditation app on your phone. Or a journal. Some people like to color or draw to cope with stress.

You can also commit to being mindful about your mental health during the holidays. 

Keep up your healthy habits.

Staying physically healthy is your best defense against holiday stress. You can make sure to drink plenty of water by bringing a bottle while shopping. Many malls have fountains where you can refill your bottle. 

Try eating a healthy snack before a party. If you’re not starving, you'll be less likely to overeat or fill up on sweets.

Practice gratitude.

Having gratitude means expressing thanks for what's good in your life. Here are few tips to try:

  • Before meals, give thanks to those who grew it and cooked it. Give thanks even if that person was you.
  • Remember the ways others show they care. Write a card or note to let them know you appreciate them. 
  • Keep it up. It may take a while to catch on, but when it does, you might find that an attitude of gratitude spreads quickly.

Take time to unwind.

You might try taking deep breaths or going for a walk. Maybe you need time to yourself after being with family. Even a little break can make a big difference when it comes to reducing stress.

Make time for joy.

What things give you joy? Baking, playing games, or volunteering in your community? How about delivering a plate of cookies to a neighbor? Do what feels right for you.

Share holiday tasks.

Let everyone help with shopping, cooking, cleaning, and event planning. (If no one is offering help, then ask for it.) If you really dislike doing dishes, help with cooking instead. Sharing tasks ensures everyone plays a part in making the holidays special.

Reflect together.

Before you say goodbye, invite everyone to reflect. Encourage people to share their favorite part of the holiday, as well as how to make get-togethers even more enjoyable next time.

Have realistic expectations.

No holiday gathering is perfect. Don't let something like forgetting to defrost the turkey ruin the day. Be flexible, and let it become another holiday memory. Try viewing these experiences as a chance to practice being resilient.

Give back to others.

One more way is to give back by paying it forward to those less fortunate. Some businesses have a built-in option with their rewards card system that allow you to select a charity, including local options, that take a portion of your charge and donate it to the charity. Amazon Smile and Kroger are two brands that let you donate “passively” to your favorite charity – think animal shelters, food banks, etc. Target has an option in your account to add a “vote” for a preselected group of rotating charities which then receives a donation from Target based on votes.

A playful way of brightening someone’s day can include hiding a rock that you painted with a meaningful message or image. Don’t worry if you’re not the best at painting, you may also use permanent markers or paint pens to draw or embellish the rock. 

Get professional help if you need it.

For some of us, holidays can be overwhelming. Stress leading up to them is common. Talking to a friend or family member may help. But you may also want to see a counselor before the holidays start. A mental health provider can help you see things in new ways that may be less stressful.