Picture of By: Dr. Ricardo Anderson
By: Dr. Ricardo Anderson
November 21, 2023

Mental Health and Wellness During the Holidays

The holiday season or any holiday we celebrate can be a difficult time for anyone. You are not alone! A 2021 survey showed that three in five Americans feel the holidays negatively impact their mental health and worsen with increased symptoms. It’s a time that can bring up complicated emotions about family, tradition, and relationships — not always easy to navigate! It has not been always easy to discuss mental health struggles, seeking additional support, or the healthy steps to maintain your wellness during the holidays.

This year may feel especially challenging, due to the different variants of COVID-19. The loss of loved ones, financial stress from lost jobs, and feelings of anxiety because of the uncertainties associated with the pandemic – these are all impacting the way people feel. This blog hopes to provide you with quick tips and reminders of ways to maintain your mental health and wellness during the holidays.

Mental health encompasses emotional, psychological, and social well-being, influencing cognition, perception, and behavior. According to World Health Organization, it is a “state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to his or her community.” It likewise determines how an individual handles stress, interpersonal relationships, and decision-making. Mental health includes subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational dependence, and self-actualization of one’s intellectual and emotional potential, among others.

Wellness is…

  • Caring for your mind, body, and soul
  • Usually affected by your culture and your life experiences
  • Self-defined and dynamic
  • Not only the absence of illness or stress. You can still strive for wellness even if you are experiencing these challenges in your life.

The eight dimensions of wellness are emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), wellness means overall well-being. It incorporates the mental, emotional, physical, occupational, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of a person’s life. Each aspect of wellness can affect overall quality of life, so it’s important to consider all aspects of health. This is especially important for people with mental health and substance use conditions because wellness directly relates to the quality and longevity of your life.

SAMSHA Eight Dimensions of Wellness
  • Emotional wellness is the ability to cope effectively with life and create satisfying relationships. Life has a way of throwing us curve balls and can be very difficult at times.
  • Environmental wellness means good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being. It’s important to feel good about where you live, work, play, and wherever else you may spend time.
  • Financial Wellness is the satisfaction of your current and future financial situations. It’s not about how much you make that makes you financially well, but rather are you satisfied with how much you make?
  • Intellectual Wellness is recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills. A person who is intellectually well never stops learning. They’re thirsty for knowledge and recognize that there is so much more to be learned.
  • Occupational Wellness is personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work. You need to have a feeling of contribution and achievement in the work that you do. Developing occupational wellness allows you to communicate your values through whatever work you choose to do.
  • Physical Wellness is recognizing the need for physical activity. Exercise offers many benefits to a person’s overall well-being. It improves your chances of living longer and healthier, relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety, improves your mood, and prevents weight gain.
  • Social Wellness is developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system. This is why spending quality time with close friends is so important. One of the best things you could do to become more socially well is to become a contributing member of your community.
  • Spiritual wellness is expanding our sense of purpose and meaning in life. Spiritual wellness is unique for everyone. It’s the deepest part of you that gives meaning to your life. Some ways to improve spiritual wellness are to meditate, praying, and listening to affirmations.

If you feel anxious about finding a new “normal” this holiday season, that’s OK. It’s important that you adjust at your own pace and take care of your mental wellbeing along the way. Here are a few tips from Mental Health First Aid to help you take care of your mental health this holiday season.

  1. Focus on what you can control. The pandemic has changed a lot around us, and it’s OK if you feel anxious as a result. Control what you can to take care of your physical and mental health. If you are nervous about travel requirements, research them in advance so you feel more prepared. If you’re feeling stressed by the media, take a digital break for a few days.
  2. Keep healthy habits. It’s important to keep healthy habits in place no matter what your holiday plans. This may include going on a daily walk, getting a good night’s rest or staying hydrated. Taking care of your physical health can help stabilize your mood, reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and improve long-term mental wellbeing.
  3. Make time for yourself. Spending time with family or friends, especially if you have not seen them in the last few years, can be overwhelming. If you need a moment to yourself, try sneaking away to a quiet room or going for an early morning walk.
  4. Create new traditions. It may feel challenging to revert to holiday traditions from 2019, and that’s OK. Create new traditions that work for you and prioritize your mental wellbeing.
  5. Ask for help if you need it. If you are feeling especially sad, stressed, anxious or depressed, ask for help. Talk to someone you trust, a mental health professional or a primary care physician for guidance and support.

Whether you feel excited, nervous, anxious or stressed (or all of these!) before the coming, during, and after the holiday season, you are not alone. By taking small actions each day, you can #BeTheDifference for yourself and make your mental wellbeing a priority.

Above all else, if someone feels their mental health is getting worse, it is important to find support among family, friends, therapists, or support groups. For times of crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text 988 to talk to a trained counselor free of charge.

  • Mental Health First Aid USA. (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA for adults assisting adults. Washington, DC: National Council for Mental Wellbeing.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness California. (2020). Maintaining mental health during the holiday season (and a pandemic). https://namica.org/blog/handling-stress-during-the-holiday-season/ .
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). (2023). Eight Dimensions of Wellness.
  • Swarbrick, M. (2006). A Wellness Approach, Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 29(4), 311-314.
  • World Health Organization (WHO) (2023) National University.
Dr. Ricardo Anderson
Picture of Dr. Ricardo Anderson

Dr. Ricardo Anderson

Dr. Ricardo Anderson is a Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS), a co-facilitator of a recovery group for all types of addictions, serves on the Executive Board for WISE as well as the Leadership Board for Peer Professionals. He is an advocate to help eliminate the stigma of mental health among individuals, the community and people of color.