by Megan Brautlacht, LMHC

The upcoming holiday season can be joy-filled, as well as stressful, especially for those impacted by mental illness. A National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI) study found that 64 percent of people with mental illness think the holiday season worsens their condition.

For example, individuals with schizophrenia often experience a higher incidence of hallucinations and delusions. Those with bipolar disorder can be more apt to experience episodes of mania and depression, and the ongoing pandemic doesn’t help.

Therapists at Harmonia Collaborative Care want to offer some helpful suggestions for maintaining both physical and mental health this holiday season, noting the importance of maintaining your physical health by eating right, getting regular exercise, and staying at home if you are sick. They also stress the importance of paying attention to your own physical and mental health needs, such as knowing the activities that can trigger stress.

Some coping mechanisms to reduce stress include:

  • Be grateful for the good things in your life, as a positive attitude and acknowledging the good in your life helps reduce stress.
  • Be realistic. Know that TV commercials and magazine or social media photos aren’t real. Everyone has struggles of one kind or another!
  • Set boundaries with people or situations that you find difficult, or avoid them altogether, if possible.
  • Practice relaxation using deep breathing, meditation, and by engaging in calming activities.
  • Take time to get some exercise by walking outdoors, working out at the gym, or participating in a dance class. Daily exercise produces stress-relieving hormones.
  • Take time for self-care, such as reading a book, getting a massage, going to the movies, listening to music, spending time in nature, or taking your dog for a walk.
  • Remember to eat well, despite the abundance of dinners, parties, and cookie trays. Maintaining healthy eating through it all by choosing unprocessed foods, whole grains, veggies, and fresh fruit is not only good for your body, but also good for your mind.
  • Remember, getting enough sleep is vital when it comes to mental health.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs which only increase stress. And if you are struggling with substance use, remember that there is help available.

There are many people struggling this season. You are not alone. Reach out to a friend or counselor if you need to talk. Also, consider volunteering to help those less fortunate.

Megan Brautlacht, LMHC is Director of Clinics at Harmonia Collaborative Care. Harmonia’s mental health professionals offer a holistic and empathic approach to in-person and virtual therapy, providing individual counseling for ages 13 and up, family and couples counseling, medication treatment, and case management by a multi-disciplinary team. The agency also provides compassionate care to seniors facing lifestyle challenges associated with change, with a goal of keeping people living independently in their own homes. Harmonia’s CarePanion program provides personalized, in-home, non-medical support to seniors and other individuals in need. Need help? Visit, or call 716-947-5025 today.