Holiday Mental Health Guide (Updated for 2021)

Jordan Brown

Last year around this time, I wrote a holiday mental health guide.

In it, I included three ideas / principles to guide readers as they weathered the inevitable holiday storms of great expectations and ongoing stress.

Here's what I wrote about holiday mental health back in December 2019:

You’ll likely have to leave your house this holiday season. If you don’t have to, then maybe you don’t need to. It can be a beast out there this time of year. Remember, do what’s most compassionate for you.

But if you do go out, remember these things:

  1. Your value is inherent. It’s already there. Nothing anyone says or does can take it away from you.
  2. You don’t need a latest-and-greatest product to be happy. Latest-and-greatest products will always be there. It’s all marketing. Buy something when you have a real need for it — not when someone convinces you that you have a need.
  3. The people who love you love you because of who you are — -not because you perform one specific action in a precise way on one or two days during the holiday season.

Sigh.....how times have changed.

Now we're being told not to leave our houses--but to still stay sane and be the best we can be. (And buy tons of stuff.)

No wonder anxiety has skyrocketed this year.

Above all else, 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic taught us that even the most obvious mental health wisdom must be tailored during times of great change.

That's what today's issue is all about: how to manage your holiday mental health during the coronavirus pandemic by following the three UPDATED-for-2020-and-2021 guiding principles below.

Holiday Mental Health - 3 Principles for 2021

1 - Basic Needs are Non-Negotiable

2020 has been a year of extremes and unimaginable struggle for most people.

It's been a year of forced learning and growing.

And if I learned anything this year, it's that meeting your basic needs are non-negotiable.

What I mean is that we're nothing without our basic needs.

You're probably familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and the pyramid of needs that must be met. Maslow stole these ideas from the Blackfeet tribe and then popularized them. (I need to give credit where credit is due...)

If the goal in life is to become the best version of yourself, you absolutely can't get there without first meeting your basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid, needs like food and shelter.

This holiday season, do whatever you need to do to meet your basic needs.

It seems obvious, but too many people put others' advanced needs over their own basic needs.

You can't pour from an empty cup. You can't help someone with their oxygen mask if you don't have oxygen yourself.

Make a list of any basic needs you have that are not being met. Then, consider how that situation is affecting you and preventing you from managing your mental health during the holidays.

You'll be better off for taking the time to list out--and address--your basic needs.

2 - You Can't Manage New, Extreme Stress By Doing What's You've Always Done

If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got.

Some people find this phrase hokey and uninspired, but I think there is a great, simple truth in this type of saying.

So really think about it for a second.

If you keep doing the same thing over and over, how likely is it that on the 11th, 12th, or 13th time you do something that you will get a drastically different outcome?

The 2020 pandemic took everyone by surprise. (OK, some scientists and intellectuals have been warning the world about this kind of calamity for years...but you know what I mean.)

For most people, 2020 shook them to their core.

COVID-19 crushed families with illness and death. It shocked the economy and destroyed millions of jobs around the world.

We will be feeling the effects of the coronavirus well into 2021.

What this all means is that we can't live life as if it is 2019 or 2018. Those were different years. This is the reality that we have now.

It is only by embracing reality that you can choose the best course of action. It is only by acknowledging what's in front of you that you can devise a plan to get around it.

So, I ask you to consider a few questions:

What have been the biggest changes in your life from 2019 to 2020?

How are you doing coping with them?

If you're doing well, why is that?

If you're not doing well, why is that?

Less certainty. More inquiry.

Being curious doesn't mean that you've failed and that you're weak. It's actually one of the most powerful skills you can develop.

When you're curious, you're open to new ideas. And the new ideas might just help you get through any new, extreme stress in your life.

3 - Your Value Is Inherent

And here we are at the final principle.

Last year, I included this as my mental health holiday guide principle number one.

With The Mental Health Update, I write about timeless mental health wisdom, and as much as this year shattered perceptions of what's normal, we can all still benefit from certain ideas that don't change much at all.

Here it is one more  time, pulled directly from my article a year ago:

Your value is inherent. It’s already there. Nothing anyone says or does can take it away from you.

Let that sink in.

You're valuable because you're you. That's it.

There's nothing anyone can ever say or do that will change that.

Who you are--and how you respond to the world--is something that you have control over. It's yours, forever and ever.

I want you to carry that thought with you as you navigate the stress of this holiday season.

To recap the 3 Holiday Mental Health Principles:

  1. Do whatever you can to meet your basic needs.
  2. You can't respond to a new, extreme situation in the same ways you've always done.
  3. You have value because you're here. Never forget that.

You can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be applying these principles this holiday season.

This has been one heck of a year, and it's not over yet.

I've had to learn to adapt just like everyone else.

My greatest hope is that we can all get through this year together--and manage our mental health in the process.



Hey, it's you and me! I'm the little one