The 10 Commandments For Surviving The Holiday Craziness While Maintaining Your Mental Health


1. Thou shalt not obsess over weight gain during the holiday season.

You may feel like you eat more food around the holidays than during other times of year, simply because it is offered to you more. You may eat more cookies than usual, or you may eat more exquisite meals during the holiday season, with foods you don’t typically eat. Remind yourself that this is okay. It’s okay to eat more food. And you may or may not gain weight. Who knows and who cares? Your body will adapt to what you are eating, and your body will take it from there. You may lose weight You may gain weight. Either way, your body will balance out, and over time will go right back to whatever your stable, homeostatic weight is. It’s no big deal if your weight fluctuates a little bit in December. Weight fluctuates from day to day anyway. It always balances out.

2. Thou shalt practice saying “no.”

Christmastime means Christmas parties, family gatherings, desserts, and hot cocoa dates, Secret Santa (White Elephant) gift exchanges, work parties, and a long list of additional obligations. This is why it is absolutely crucial that you learn to say “no,” and that you practice it daily! It’s impossible to do everything during the holidays. Like literally impossible. If you commit to too many plans, you’re going to go crazy. If something isn’t jiving with your schedule or with your heart, just say “no,” and don’t feel bad about it. You have to take care of yourself – you can’t pour from an empty glass. If you keep going to things you’ll run out of steam and won’t have the energy to attend the things you really want to attend, or you won’t really feel like you are showing up as you when you do attend Christmas gatherings.

3. Thou shalt not feel guilty for going back for a second helping of Grandma’s delicious apple pie.

Approach the holidays as you would approach any time of year. You don’t need to think of second helpings as “bad,” or as something you should avoid at all costs. Your body knows what it wants and what it needs. If that second piece of apple pie is going to bring you joy and comfort (and deliciousness), go for it. If you are too full and know that it will give you a stomachache, then don’t eat it – but know that you can come back at any time to get it if you do want it later. There’s no need to have strict rules for what you can and cannot eat around Christmas. And just because your cousin is eating one slice of pie doesn’t mean that you also need to eat one slice of pie.

4. Thou shalt not break the bank this holiday season.

Gift buying is for sure fun, but it’s also hella expensive…and the costs add up quickly. Be smart about buying your gifts – look for sales, and try to avoid overspending. Remember that gifts are not about how much money you spend…they are about the thought you put into buying them. They are about you showing another person that you care about them. Some friends may even like a heartfelt letter written to them, rather than a gift. You may want to consider baking brownies or fudge for your friends or making handmade gifts. There are plenty of alternatives to spending all of your money at the end of the year.

5. Thou shalt take breaks from all of the socializing and extroverted-ness that the holiday entails.

Feel free to take breaks to go watch an episode of Shameless or Grey’s, or to take a quick walk around the neighborhood (if it’s not too cold!). You may really need to give yourself some space from the constant 24/7 talking and socializing that appears to be happening all around you. It can be completely overwhelming for anyone. Taking breaks is an easy way to practice self-care. And you don’t need to have a reason or an explanation. You don’t need to feel guilty. Just leave.

6. Thou shalt not feel pressure to be cheerful and happy during the holidays.

The holiday season is supposed to be holly and jolly, joyful and merry. Cue Christmas music. But sometimes the pressure to feel happy is overwhelming, especially if you are not feeling happy. Having the added pressure to feel happy can make you feel really insecure, and even more down. It can make you wonder why you aren’t feeling better, and feel as though you are flawed for feeling how you are feeling. Try to take some of the pressure off of yourself, and be more accepting of how you really do feel. Acknowledge that it’s okay to not feel cheery and bright during December. It doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong. And for a lot of people, the winter is really hard. And the holidays can be reminders of really hard times. So feel how you feel, and don’t blame yourself for feeling any specific way.

7. Thou shalt not take to heart the food or weight-related comments that family and friends feel the need to share.

Have you ever noticed just how frequently food talk, weight talk, and diet talk seems to come up around the holidays? It’s totally okay, and encouraged, to set boundaries for yourself when your friends or family bring up weight or watching their weight. You are on your own path, and some people won’t be on the same path, or won’t begin to understand your path. You know that you can eat what you want to eat, and that Christmas cookies are just Christmas cookies. If you want a cookie (or two, or three), it’s totally fine, even if Aunt Linda claims to be “watching her figure,” and thinks that rejecting Christmas cookies is currently the path she is choosing. You can intuitively eat even when others are engaging in negative self-talk, or even when others are trying to put their values on you (when they see you eating something they wish they were eating).

8. Thou shalt not feel pressure to go out (and drink)!

Just because everyone is going out and partying tequila, beer, and Santa bar crawl style doesn’t mean you too have to do this. Find ways to compromise the bar crawl or with a night in doing something festive, but more relaxing. Have your best friend over to watch Elf for the hundred millionth time. Or spend a night decorating Christmas cookies with your sibling, or even by yourself! There are plenty of festive activities you can do at home in your pjs, that are cozy, comfy, and that you don’t wake up feeling hungover from. (Side note: if you want to go out, then by all means, go out! But you don’t need to feel like you are missing out if you don’t go.)

9. Thou shalt take care of thyself.

This means taking naps, resting, sleeping enough, eating enough, journaling, going to therapy, or doing whatever you normally do to practice self-care. Just because your schedule has been thrown a little out of whack, and just because you have more social obligations, doesn’t mean you should throw your normal routines out the window. Make sure you still do the things that you need to do to feel cared for, nourished, and energetic. Eat snacks or meals on the day of the Christmas dinner. If you’re exhausted, sleep in even if family members are coming over early in the morning. Set aside time to drink your coffee and read a book before the chaos begins. Put yourself first, so that you can also care more for others.

10. Thou shalt set boundaries this season.

Self-care also means having social boundaries. You’ll probably see a lot of family and friends this season, most likely more than usual. And some of these people are people who you only see once a year. You may not be close with everyone you see, and you may even have some stress associated with others. Spend more time talking to people who uplift you, and less time engaging with those who bring you down. Don’t feel any obligation to spend excess time, or even minimal time, with those who really don’t do wonders for your mental health. It’s just not worth it. Spend time with people who you want to be spending time with, and your holiday parties and obligations will become a lot more refreshing.