If you find yourself struggling with your mental health over the holidays, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, 38% of Americans report feeling increased stress during the holiday season, according to the APA.
And for BIPOC Americans, this stress can be even more pronounced, as Black, Latin X and Indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 deaths, racism, and job loss. In fact, Black Americans are 20% more likely to experience psychological distress than their white counterparts, according to research from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
For individuals from minoritized cultural groups, the holiday season might be particularly stressful. Dominant cultural practices and traditions — such as the heavy presence of Christmas traditions — can feel particularly exclusionary for people who practice various traditions during the months of November and December. These dynamics have implications for the psychological distress associated with the holiday season.
No matter what is causing your stress this holiday season, it’s important to remember that the “holiday blues” are natural and not something you need to feel ashamed of.
And while it may not be possible to completely eliminate your stress, you can manage it more effectively this year with some extra planning and support. Here are a few strategies that may help.
The number one reason people reported feeling stressed during the holidays was lack of time. And when you’re extra busy, you may find that the things that usually help you feel your best end up falling by the wayside.
Take a moment to identify the things that most improve your mental health or reduce your stress levels. These could include exercise, a healthy meal, alone time, journaling, mindfulness practices, a long bath, or time with a friend. Then, make a plan for how you can prioritize these things during the holiday season. Consider blocking out time in your calendar, or setting realistic goals for yourself about the ways you can maintain your healthy habits even when your routine changes.
If you find yourself struggling during the holidays because of family conflict, grief, or other relational struggles, it’s especially important to make sure you have someone to confide in. This could be a family member, friend, or partner, as long as they’re someone who accepts you as you are and is willing to listen without judgment.
Confiding in a therapist is another valuable option at any time, but especially around the holidays. Depending on your goals and needs, a therapist can:
When you talk to a Hurdle therapist, you get the added benefit of speaking with someone who’s trained in cultural responsiveness and intentionality. No matter who you are, you deserve therapy that allows you to show up as your whole self and be met with humility and responsiveness. If you’re interested in learning more, schedule a free, 15-minute information session.
Do you tend to get anxious about the amount of money you’re spending on gifts and entertaining (whether you feel that it’s too much or not enough)? If so, try to prepare in advance this year by setting a budget and committing to stick to it.
Remember, the people who truly care about you will appreciate spending quality time with you more than extravagant meals or gifts. And there are plenty of ways to make the holidays memorable without breaking the bank — like creating new traditions or finding ways to get your family involved with the planning and preparation.
You can’t please everyone, and if you try to this holiday season, you’ll likely end up feeling stressed, burnt out, and even resentful. Before the season kicks into high gear, take a few minutes to think about the boundaries you want to set for yourself, whether that’s getting home by a certain time at night, turning down events that don’t excite you, or saying no to overtime at work.
Boundary setting is a skill that will grow with practice. Even if you feel uncomfortable at first, remember that saying no now will help preserve your mental health in the coming month, and setting boundaries will get easier and easier with time.
Working with a therapist is another way to practice boundary setting in a safe space. Consider asking your therapist if they can help you work on saying no to people or overcoming people pleasing, and then talk with them about practical ways you can apply those skills this holiday season.
The holiday season might always be stressful for you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to make it a little easier. By working with a culturally intentional therapist and prioritizing stress management this year, you can protect your wellbeing and open yourself up to enjoy the things that matter most to you this holiday season, whether that’s cherished traditions or time with people you love.
Don’t put off dealing with your stress until it feels too overwhelming to manage. Take the first step today by registering for therapy at this link.
In the event of any of emergency, please ensure to access resources to include crisis intervention such as Suicide Prevention (988) and your local emergency care center. There are also crisis resources specifically created for BIPOC, including StrongHearts Native Helpline and Call BlackLine.