health + wellness

The most(ly) wonderful time of the year: practicing self care and managing mental health during the holidays

by hannah barrett

It is hugely important to practice self love and self care year round, but it is especially important to put yourself first while navigating the holiday blues.

The holidays can be a melonchaly, nostalgic time. They conjure up sentimental memories. This, coupled with unrealistic expectations and an overbooked schedule can be a catalyst for anxiety, depression, loneliness, and all other unwelcome feelings. Pressures to make holidays perfect and to have the perfect family and/or relationship experiences are both insincere and impossible to achieve. Through simplifying everything and being with people you truly want to be with, you can do yourself many favors this holiday season. 

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Here are a few things to keep in mind through the most(ly) wonderful time of year!

1. Be realistic. 

Keep your expectations real. From overcommercializtion ,to the amplification of gilded social media posts, to the general romanticism of this time of year, it can be hard to remind yourself to be realistic. The holidays are no doubt a magical time of the year, but unfortunately, if your boyfriend or girlfriend isn't prince(ss) charming in May, they likely won't turn into that simply because it's December. Don't try to be a five star chef, a billionaire, or a socialite simply because you've convinced yourself that the holidays require that.

2. Don't compare.

Remember that nobody's holidays are as perfect as they might seem. Get off social media for a bit! Sharing moments and memories is a wonderful gift that technology avails us, but it is as much a curse as it is a blessing. It can be hard to compartmentalize and remember that what you are seeing on social media is a very polished version of their own experiences. Pastor Steve Furtick said it best when he said, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel.”

3. Simplify. Everything.

From menus to gifts to your time with people. Simplify. Self imposed pressure does not do much for anybody, and anything you do that is heartfelt is going to be appreciated.

4. Learn to say no.  

One of the reasons the holidays can feel so stressful is because of how "busy" they are. Don't overbook your schedule. Leave time for yourself. This is your reminder that it's okay to (politely) say no simply because you don't want to do something. Also, keep in mind that the thing you are stressing to get done would likely not be missed if you didn't get around to it at all.

5. Embrace change.

One of the easiest ways to set yourself up for disappointment is by comparing this year to last year. Embrace this new season. You might surprise yourself! Some of the best memories are accidental, and celebrating in a new way could be the highlight of this holiday season.

6. Make time for yourself.  

Slow down. Run yourself a bath, read the paper, take a nap. Make 'taking a break' part of your 'to-do' list.

7. Don't entirely abandon your routine. 

 As difficult as it is to stick to your routine during the holiday season, there are a few reasons to not entirely abandon it. Prioritize your mental health over holiday festivities. Don't forget to take your meds. Don't abandon real life responsibilities for the assumed holiday demands.

8. Allow yourself to feel- anything!

The fact that it is Thanksgiving or Hanukkah or Christmas does not invalidate feelings of sadness or loneliness. Let yourself feel any and all emotions during this time.

9. Reach out. 

To friends, to family, to a professional if necessary. There is never anything wrong with asking for help. Pay attention to warning signs, and ask for help at your first sign of distress rather than your breaking point.

In short, the holidays are a wonderful time, and you have the right to enjoy them any way YOU want. Simplify everything. Make time for yourself. Allow yourself to feel. Limit your expectations.
Make the most of this beautiful time and change of season, but be okay with the fact that the holidays aren't always merry and bright. But, neither is life, and that is what makes it beautiful.


Hannah Barrett, Author

Hannah is a member of the Gold Hand Journalism Team

Hi, I’m Hannah! I am a Business Administration and Graphic Communications student, from Dallas, Tx, currently studying in Oneonta, NY. I’m a music enthusiast, an admirer of art, a mountain maniac, a writer, and an outright travel junkie. I believe life should be all about authenticity, love, and creativity. I believe in women complimenting each other at bathroom sinks. And I believe in always working hard in order to play hard. Hemingway said it best: “Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough." x

Instagram: @hannah_barrett


Graphics, Alexandra Rivas

Alex is a member of the Gold Hand creative team.

Alexandra Rivas is a graphic designer and photographer currently living and working in Providence, Rhode Island. A few of the things she likes are: bluegrass bars, color film, clean kitchens, birthday parties, dress-up games, and at-home haircuts. Two things she doesn’t like are: going to bed too early and waking up too early.

You can see her photographic work and follow her adventures on Instagram @lythmai.

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