How to Handle Holiday Emotions

How to Handle Holiday Emotions

The holiday season is complicated. While fun and festive for many, this time of year isn’t a carefree and happy time for everyone. For some, the holidays can trigger stress, anxiety and depression. In fact, a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) study found 64% of people with mental illness report worsening symptoms during the holiday season.

So what can you do to combat negative feelings and lift your spirits? Licensed medical social worker Rhonda Broek, Holland Hospital Behavioral Health Services, offers these tips:

  • Pay attention to your needs: Make your health and wellness a priority. If there’s an activity that helps you relieve stress, do it. Read a book, listen to music, and don’t forget to step outside and get some fresh air.

  • Don’t avoid or minimize your emotions: Instead of suppressing how you feel, which can actually worsen anxiety and depression, identify and validate your emotions. Recognize that it is normal to feel a variety of emotions during this season.

  • Embrace a little self-compassion: Are you being too hard on yourself? Blaming yourself? Are you trying to be perfect? Talk to yourself and treat yourself like you would a best friend and remember that magazine images are not the real world. The holiday does not need to be perfect, and it’s okay if you make some changes to traditions or expectations.

  • Manage your time: It’s probably going to be busy or feel hectic, so try to plan ahead. Making a day-to-day schedule so you can visualize your activities can prevent you from feeling too overwhelmed. The goal is to avoid that last-minute scramble as much as possible. Remember, it’s okay to say no to some plans and requests.

  • Set boundaries: Consider what is most important to you and let that be your guide. This will help you say no to certain people, events or obligations in order to say yes to what is most important. Consider limiting social media and simplifying life as part of healthy boundaries.

  • Stick with healthy habits: Take good care of yourself. That means drinking water, limiting alcohol, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and balancing holiday treats with healthy eating. Try practicing deep breathing, meditation, stretching or yoga.

  • Reach out for help: If you’re feeling lonely, depressed or overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to reach out to a friend or loved one. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional if you feel you need additional support. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) if you or someone you know is in crisis or immediate danger.

“The holidays can be hard for anyone,” Broek said. “But understanding your emotions, working through them and having an open mind regarding trying or starting new traditions can allow you to deal with negative feelings in a healthy way.”

Holland Hospital Behavioral Health Services provides access to comprehensive, compassionate and confidential mental health services for people of all ages. Behavioral Health Services continues to expand access to important mental health services and programs to meet the growing need in our community. Recent additions include the Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient programs and the expansion of our outpatient clinic. To learn more visit,

  • Rhonda Broek, LMSW

    Rhonda Broek, LMSW

    Rhonda Broek is a therapist at Holland Hospital’s Partial Hospitalization program. She has experience working with patients of all ages in a variety of settings, including primary care, home care, outpatient mental health and in the hospital. Her clinical expertise includes treatment of mood disorders, suicide assessment and intervention, and dialectical behavior therapy.

    Behavioral Health Services - PHP/IOP
    602 Michigan Avenue
    Holland, MI 49423
    Phone: (616) 395-2828
    Fax: (616) 395-2829 Rhonda Broek, LMSW

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