This year many of us will be returning to pre-pandemic holiday celebrations. While this return to normalcy is welcomed by some, it can also trigger feelings of stress, anxiety or depression. Maybe you’re hosting a family gathering and feel stressed by heightened expectations. Maybe you’re navigating your first holiday around family members after coming out. Holidays can be full of expectations. Here’s how to prioritize yourself this holiday season:

1.   Plan ahead

During the holiday season, 44% of women report higher stress levels compared to 31% of men. Why? Women typically are responsible for the organizing, cooking, and overall planning of holiday celebrations in their households. Plan ahead by making a list of your responsibilities, and their deadlines. Things like shopping for gifts can be done in advance, while grocery shopping and meal planning will happen closer to the holiday dinner. If you’re traveling, set the itinerary and create your packing list. Taking a few minutes to make a to-do list will keep stress and anxiety levels low.

2.   Set boundaries

It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday excitement, but setting time aside to recharge is important. Saying ‘yes’ to every party or Secret Santa can cause burnout and resentment; it’s ok to say ‘no’ and remember you can’t please everyone. You have the right to put yourself and your mental health first, and if that means saying no to dinner with a family member that triggers you, that’s ok.

3.   Set a routine (with breaks)

Routines tend to take a back seat when the holiday season begins. Routines are important, and during the pandemic many came to rely on the steadiness and reliability of having one. Try to set time aside to take care of yourself and do the things that make you happy and grounded, since even ten minutes a day can make a big difference.

4.   It doesn’t have to be perfect

The holidays can be hard for many for different reasons, and there will be moments that don’t go as planned. When you embrace the feeling of ‘being good is good enough’, you’ll take the pressure off of having that perfect Hallmark holiday. Preserving your mental health is the best gift anyone can receive.

5.   Talk to someone

You may benefit from speaking with a therapist who can provide professional insights and strategies to help you navigate the holiday season. At Doctor On Demand by Included Health, we have licensed therapists who specialize in family therapy, stress, anxiety, depression, and loss and grief.