Holidays are a time for family gatherings and cheer. Unfortunately, those same family gatherings can also be a catalyst for stress and drama. Dealing with this is uncomfortable for anyone, but when you struggle with a mental illness it can be even more unbearable. How can you make it though the holidays unscathed?

You Come First

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., writing for PsychCentral recommends we put ourselves first during the holiday season. Self-care is always important, but during times when we are pulled in many different directions and spread too thin, we must make it a top priority. Take time each day to recharge and refresh your soul. Maybe that’s through meditation or yoga, or perhaps a cup of tea with a friend. Whatever you need, make sure you make time for it.

Connection Is Key

Isolation is not the answer when stress strikes. If you are feeling overwhelmed, look to someone for support. Keep a trusted friend or family member on speed dial for urgent issues. Go to a soup kitchen or community center and help those in need. Seeking professional help when things get really overwhelming is very key, too.

Maintain Your Recovery

Now is not the time to skip out on therapy or meetings with your treatment team. If you anticipate stress this holiday season, talk to your providers and make a plan. You do not need to go it alone.

Avoid Triggers

If you know that alcohol brings out the worst in you, opt for non-alcoholic drinks this season. The abundance of holiday food can be especially difficult for people with eating disorders. Be aware of the things that make you vulnerable to stress and work to strengthen your support system. Have a buddy with you at gatherings and make a plan of escape if things get too difficult. Be mindful of your feelings and honor them. There is no rule that says you can’t leave the party early if it gets to be too much.

You Are Only One Person

If you tend to be perfectionistic or people-pleasing by nature, it can be challenging to set boundaries with family and friends. You may feel tempted to be in several places at once or feel the need to play many roles within the family dynamic. Remember that you are only one person, and your first allegiance is to yourself. Only then can you show up for others.

With a little planning and mindfulness, the holidays can be fun and magical. Remember your goals. Remember your recovery.

At Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program, we know that the holidays can be a challenging time. We are here to help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support you.


Tartakovsky, M. (2011). 9 Ideas for Coping with the Holidays When You Have a Mental Illness. PsychCentral.

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