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December Mental Health Memo: Weathering the Holiday Season





Weathering the Holiday Season

By HSC Staff

About the Human Services Center: The mission of the Human Services Center is to provide
individuals who are mentally ill or chemically dependent with effective, individualized professional treatment enabling them to achieve their highest level of personal independence in the most therapeutic environment.

The month of December is supposed to be a time for excitement and holiday cheer. There are family gatherings, decorating for Christmas, and reflecting on the things (people) for which we are grateful. However, December can be a month full of stress and strain. It’s a busy month with the added pressures of planning family gatherings, managing finances for additional expenses, attempting to maintain a clean home, cooking/baking, and tending to all of the other tasks on top of our already busy schedules. And in addition to that, it’s starting to get COLD….

As you prepare for the holiday season, here are five tips for reducing stress and enhancing the holiday joy:

  1. Don’t overcommit. As we prepare for the holiday season, we tend to set the bar impossibly high for ourselves and feel let down when our celebrations don’t meet the expectations we set. Learn to acknowledge that things may not go exactly as planned and reassess your to-do list to focus on what really needs to be done. Enjoy this time – don’t expect perfection.

  2. Ask for help and be ok with saying ‘no’ to avoid overcommitment. There are only so many hours in the day, so many gatherings you can attend, and so many pumpkin pies you can bake. The holiday season is packed with a number of activities and responsibilities, which can leave a person feeling overwhelmed. Set limits and avoid taking on too much. Asking for help with even the simplest of tasks can do wonders for your stress levels around the holidays. It’s also ok to say “no.” Your friends and family will understand.  

  1. Remember what really matters. As the holiday season picks up momentum and starts to become hectic, be purposeful in reminding yourself what really matters. This will look a little different for everyone. Whether you volunteer for your favorite charity or go out of your way to give a compliment or smile to another, remember what is most important to you to keep your own well-being in mind. Perspective is key; a long line at the grocery store is just a long line, nothing more.

  2. Maintain healthy habits. Holiday weight gain is common and can be stressful. While everyone wants that extra piece of pumpkin pie, reasonable portions and limited snacking is more beneficial in the long run. Be purposeful in continuing to eat healthy, drink water, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and engage in other healthy activities. With that being said, allow yourself to have that extra piece of pumpkin pie at Christmas dinner guilt free.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. The holiday season brings up a lot of mixed emotions. Often, we see others as being “happy” and “joyful,” and we put the expectation on ourselves to feel the same way. It is important to be honest, both with yourself and others. If you are feeling upset or overwhelmed, tell someone. Trying to force yourself to be happy will only lead to feeling worse as the days go by.

If you or someone you know is struggling this holiday season, help is available. To find a behavioral health provider in your area visit https://dss.sd.gov/behavioralhealth/services.aspx or call the South Dakota Treatment Resource Hotline at 1-800-920-4343. Help can also be found by calling 211 or texting your zip code to 898211. Also check your health plan as you may have an Employee Assistance Program that can provide support. Know your options.

Take care of yourself and your loved ones and enjoy the holiday season!