Surviving the holidays with your mental health intact


Emma Greco

Holland residents find a way to enjoy the winter weather by visiting Windmill Island.

Emma Greco

“I tend to wear more baggy clothing not necessarily because of the weather but because I don’t like my body and think it looks worse than in the summer,” an anonymous junior said.

   The holidays are meant to be a time where people can relax and enjoy themselves. Ironically the ‘happiest’ time of the year is the season where there’s a drastic increase in mental health issues, at a 50-60 percent increase.

   Many find themselves experiencing increased symptoms of depression and anxiety as a result of the changing seasons. And as food-centric holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas come around, many stress over their diet and self-image.

   This makes the holiday season especially difficult for people who are recovering from eating disorders or related issues.

   Another anonymous student says that they “often eat a lot because ‘it’s the holidays’ and then regret it the next day and don’t feel like eating.”

   Thoughts like “Am I eating too much?” or “What if eating this meal makes me gain weight?” cloud the thoughts of these individuals, especially during Thanksgiving.

   As West Ottawa High School begins its descent into winter break, many students may find themselves struggling with these thoughts and feelings, unsure of how to navigate them.

   Here are some helpful tips from students at West Ottawa had to say about how they navigate their problems during the holidays:

  • Do keep your foot off of the scale, especially after a meal.

    • “I don’t weigh myself anymore. I used to weigh myself day and night. For eating, it was more of an afterthought like it made me feel bad after. Instead I tell myself that it’s nourishing my body and that it tasted good. I try not to weigh myself after because almost everyone gets bloated after eating; I try not to focus on sudden weight gain after eating.”

  • Do allow yourself to eat what you want and enjoy yourself.

    • “I realize that ‘cheat days’ are something that everyone needs to have. It’s okay to relax and enjoy yourself, because eating sweets for a few days during the holidays won’t make you gain weight in the long run.”

  • Do be compassionate with yourself.

    • “One thing that has really helped me a lot is the idea that image is less important than health. Essentially, how you look doesn’t matter, it’s only a problem if you feel physically unhealthy due to your weight (and not placebo).”

  • Do set healthy boundaries.

    • “I like to stick to a healthy routine so sometimes if I have junk food after and break that routine I feel bad for a second and I still think good of myself. But if it’s a recurring thing and I don’t stick to my routine I think worse of myself. Even though if I have no noticeable difference in appearance or weight.”

Getting together with family and friends during the holidays can be great, but we all know how comments from others during the holidays can ruin your time together.

   Here are some things students wish people would know, things not to do during the holidays:

  • Don’t call people out on their behaviors during the holidays in front of family.

    • “It’s a sensitive topic and you never know what someone is going through, even your closest family members. So refrain from ‘jokes’ that are insensitive or making comments. Like if someone goes for a second plate during a family gathering, don’t make a comment about it and make them feel bad about it, even if that might not be your intention.”

  • Don’t act like you know everything about what someone is going through.

    • “This year has been a rough year for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that you know what people have gone through. It feels insulting when someone tries to tell me how I feel and what to do.”

   2022 has been a challenging year, from imminent lockdowns to trying to go back to “normal,” remember to be kind to yourself and others during this holiday season.