We are all going through something, whether talked about or kept in silence. The holidays tend to highlight certain aspects of the family dynamic which is typically expressed as a time of gratitude and consists of family gatherings, coming together with tradition and food. It is a time for togetherness and harmony. However, it is not always a time of joy and peace. There are people struggling for various reasons and quite often, there are emotions that are heightened during the holiday season. We have permission to recognize these emotions and we are allowed to have the viewpoint that it’s not exactly the most wonderful time of the year. Jessica sat down with two amazing mental health therapists, who along with her, are founders of NUMA, Inc., to discuss ways in which to maintain your mental health during the holidays. Mental health experts Dr. Alicja Brownstein and James Wesley Williams shared their perspectives.

The holiday season is the busiest time for psychotherapists. A 2021 survey showed that three in five Americans feel the holidays negatively impact their mental health (Holiday 2021 Stress Report: Increase in Anxiety, Depression, n.d.) More clients are seen than in the summer and spring for various reasons. The weather is a common factor. Our bodies and minds react to the shorter days, extended nights, less sun exposure due to the cold weather, prolonged exposure to artificial light, and to the confinement in our dwellings, whether they are our homes, offices, or shopping centers. Depending where you are geographically located, the greenery turns monochrome, dull washed brown and gray, and there is certainly less effortless beauty in our environment than in the warmer months. We decorate our homes, cities, and towns to cheer our spirit but no amount of holiday decorations can compete with the environment of a warm summer afternoon or the colors of the mid spring. 

We consistently hear about our clients feeling down due to the pressures of family life. Bereavement, past trauma, and domestic abuse are also factors that influence a person’s response to the holidays. When we ask what “normal” means for our clients, we usually hear a description of images from advertisements or movies. Then we take a deep breath, and start unpacking the expectations and conflicted emotions, memories, and real-life experiences, trying to anchor our client to reality rather than the fantasy of movie producers and advertisement companies. By doing this, we focus on real life and real feelings, not the comparisons with those who have a perceived better life. And through doing that we help our clients connect with their feelings from sadness and disappointment, or sense of moral injury often caused by neglect and abuse, to unearthing the real gems of experiences unique to our clients, connected with love, care, generosity, and genuine joy which they can claim as their own personal or family heirloom for that time of togetherness and celebrations of new beginnings.

We want you to know that you are not alone and that you are seen, especially during the time of the year that tends to bring out our holiday blues. We wish you hope and joy of living! Here are our five tips for maintaining your mental health during the holidays:

  1. Get a checkup with your primary care physician – We naturally tend to go into hibernation mode during the cold season and that can result in the lack of essential vitamins, activity, and nutrition.  We recommend that you get your levels checked and take your vitamins, such as vitamin D, B12, and iron.
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff – Remember to maintain perspective and try not to strive for perfection because there is no such thing as “perfect.” Preparation for the holiday season is linked with self-reflection. 
  3. Stay present – The look into the past too often makes us feel depressed, while the glimpse into the future makes us feel anxious. Embrace your current moment and prioritize your mental and physical health first.
  4. Practice self-care – get enough sleep, set boundaries, accept and communicate your needs to your loved ones around you, practice relaxation. 
  5. Don’t overextend yourself – It is ok to say no! Don’t do so much! 

If you or someone you love is experiencing a crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255; use the Crisis Text Line by texting NAMI to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor for free, 24/7 crisis support via text message; or call the NAMI Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) M–F, 7 a.m.–3 p.m. PT for free mental health info, referrals and support.


Holiday 2021 Stress Report: Increase in Anxiety, Depression. (n.d.). https://sesamecare.com/blog/lowering-holiday-stress-2021?irclickid=0g2RdU1M0xyIR2dRPwzV03iiUkGz4z3GISrcyY0.


Like it? Share with your friends!

Jessica Montalvo
Jessica Maria Montalvo has dedicated her life to the diverse field of education for over 19 years. She knows the importance of cultural inclusivity and diversity, equity, and inclusion as a part of what she stands for as not only an educator, but a life-long learner as well. Jessica is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Indiana University, and from Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne with her teaching Certification for Secondary Education. Later she earned a Master of Education from Indiana Wesleyan University and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana Tech in the global leadership program. Her passion for service has translated to her involvement in creative projects which include roles within an original musical theater production about mental illness written by James Wesley Williams, since its full-cast production opening premiere in 2014. She is also a producer for the recent film short, Grummy. Her greatest work of art is when she became a mother in 2020 to her beautiful baby girl, Lara Juliana Montalvo.