Thursday, December 30 | Cause Connected, Netsmart in the Community, Thought Leadership

Give Yourself the Best Gift This Season… Self-Care

By Tricia Zerger, Senior Director, Human Services Strategy

Maybe you identify with Buddy from Elf and believe the best way to spread holiday cheer is singing loud for all to hear. Or maybe you’re more like Ellen Griswold from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: It’s Christmas and we are all in misery.

Whatever your attitude, the holidays are among us and while the season brings lots of excitement, it’s not merry and bright for everyone. This season, it is essential to recognize not only how you are feeling, but how those around you are feeling. Although negative emotions are not limited to a certain time of the year, the holidays have a way of making things seem more difficult.

According to the American Psychological Association, 38% of people said their stress increased during the holiday season, which can lead to physical illness, depression, anxiety and substance misuse. The National Alliance on Mental Illness noted that 64% of individuals living with a mental illness felt their conditions worsened around the holidays. 

So, if you are feeling more down, anxious, exhausted, have difficulty sleeping or are sleeping too much, it’s time to ask for help. If you take nothing else from this blog, I urge you to recognize that you don’t need to force yourself to be happy. It is okay to acknowledge that your feelings may not be holly and jolly. Just as important, understand you are not alone in feeling this way. Last year, I challenged everyone, including myself, to be brave enough to express how we are really feeling this season. Did you? It was a challenge for me, but I did it. Who did you ask for help? Was it a therapist, counselor, friend, sibling or member of a faith community? I chose my sister Laura.

If you did not ask for help, that is okay. Today is a new day and together, we can unwrap authentic connections and light up mental health awareness. Try to identify and understand what helps you reduce stress. Also, determine why you become sad around this time of year, as knowing may help you navigate the rest of the season and into the new year.

Overwhelmed by grief and loss? Check in with a support group, therapist, member of a faith community or friends who understand. Feeling overwhelmed by all the cooking, shopping, wrapping gifts and events? Make a schedule of when you will do your shopping, baking, cleaning — and be sure to include time to take care of yourself. Recently a friend introduced me to the To Do app. I use it for personal tasks and for work, creating new traditions and much more. Maybe give it a try and see if you discover how good it feels to check something off your list.

I also took the opportunity to ask some fellow Netsmart associates to share their own tips that keep their mind, body and spirit bright throughout the holiday season and moving into 2022:

Remember gratitude, family and graciousness. Also, a lot of deep breathing and dog walking. Mary Gannon, Senior Director & Chief Nursing Officer

Self-care during the holidays is all about reconnecting with my inner child. I have cultivated a collection of Claymation movies, old records and seasonal treats that transport me back to a time when Christmas could not come soon enough and the only timeline I was worried about was the one Santa kept. Each day during December, I either take a few minutes to drink hot cocoa, listen to Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers sing about a winter wonderland, or wrap up and spend some quality time with my old friend Frosty. Adam Filipowski, Director, Solution Consulting


Much like Clark Griswold, I find myself rewatching family videos from previous years. It puts things in perspective in terms of how fast time goes, especially when you have small humans in your house. It always brings a smile to my face.  Brett Darby, Senior Director, Strategic Client Development


Taking care of your physical health can also improve your mental health. Go for a run/walk either by yourself if you need some quiet time or with family/friends to enjoy some fresh air. Candis Brahmavar, Senior Director, Marketing

My holiday or everyday self-care starts with morning yoga, or even just a 10-minute stretch. It's amazing how a simple routine can help set the tone for the rest of my day. Ailene Tang, Director, Sales Operations

Not just during the holiday season, I take time each morning to read some spiritual literature,  reflect on it and then set a positive intention for the day. I read the same piece at night before going to bed to reinforce the message. Keith Boushee, Director, Community Strategist

As an introvert, I find all the holiday activities and gatherings can be fun, but also exhausting. I have learned to be mindful of balancing the time I spend with others with my need to have quiet time and some “normal” routines. Giving myself 30 minutes to read near the Christmas tree at the end of the day allows me to feel some “holiday spirit” while recharging from all the hustle and bustle.   Liz Thiel, Vice President, Human Resources

Love and kind vibes only. Be kind. Love hard. Sarah Owings, Director, Client Learning

Being mindful of when you are transitioning between experiences that require you to use different parts of your brain. When I am at work, I am very focused on analytical and problem-solving parts of my brain. At home, I want to focus on being present and spending quality time with my family. Being mindful and doing breathing exercises to focus on what is important in each phase of my life is very helpful.  David Strocchia, Senior Vice President & Managing Director, Human Services

My holiday self-care involves cooking fun new recipes and sharing with my family and friends! Madison McMillin, Client Alignment Executive

Check in on someone you think may be struggling or tell someone something you’re struggling with. Write a thank you note to someone in your life that deserves it, call them and read it to them. Don’t wait until New Years to make changes you want in your life.  Anthony Spano, Client Development Executive

It’s important to note the difference between seasonal blues, which typically go away in a brief period of time and a more serious mental health issue. Both are real and should be taken seriously, however the latter may require more support strategies. If heightened anxiety and depression continue for an extended period and impact your daily activities, consider seeking professional guidance.

 Do not forget…YOU ARE NOT ALONE!


If you or a loved one need immediate mental health assistance, contact the following:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273- TALK (8255)

Mental Health America Hotline Text MHA to 741741

Become Mental Health First Aid Certified


Meet the Author

Tricia Zerger Blog Photo
Tricia Zerger · Senior Director, Human Services Strategy

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