December 14, 2021

Caring For Yourself During the Holiday Season

The winter holiday season can be a time full of love and joy. However, it can also be a time that brings a lot of stress into your life. Things like weather changes, financial stress, and strained family relationships all make the holiday season full of extra worries. 

However, there are some things you can do to help get yourself through the holidays. We’ve got some tips for caring for your mental, physical, and emotional health this winter:

Taking Care of Your Basic Needs

If your basic needs aren’t met, everything else in your life feels more difficult. The extra financial pressure that the holidays bring can make it hard to meet all of these needs on your own. However, there are lots of resources in place to help out.


If food insecurity is an issue you’re facing this winter, places like Meals on Wheels and Gleaner’s Food Bank have options to help you out. You can also check out our resource directory for information on local food pantries and hot meal service.


Housing is another important concern as the temperature drops. If you need help finding housing or paying your rent, the Indianapolis Housing Agency may be able to help. Our resource directory also has some helpful locations that can help you with temporary and transitional housing. 


As the weather gets colder in the winter months, utility bills become more expensive and can be another huge source of stress. The Marion County Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (EAP) exists to help folks keep their utilities up and running during the winter. 

In Indiana, you can also dial 2-1-1 on any phone to connect to helpful services designed to help you meet your basic needs. 

Taking Care of Your Mental Health Needs

It may seem like the holiday season is all about love and joy, but the stress of the season can also negatively affect your mental health. Not only are there added obligations and responsibilities during this time of year, but there are also scientific reasons you might be feeling sad or anxious.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that affects people during the winter months. The lack of sunlight in the winter can affect your mood. Millions of people all over the United States experience SAD, so if you begin to feel depressed as the days get shorter, you aren’t alone.

To help manage your seasonal affective disorder symptoms, try to maintain a healthy diet and incorporate physical activity into your day as much as you can. Getting outside when the sun is out can be really helpful as well. If you can’t make it outdoors to enjoy the sun, a light box that replicates the sun’s natural light can be a great alternative. 

Help is Available

No matter the cause of your mental health struggles, it’s important to know that your feelings are valid. Many folks struggle with mental health issues during the holiday season, and there is help available for you.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis or are thinking about hurting yourself, people are available to talk to you and help you with your struggle. The National Suicide Prevention Helpline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255. 

Trans Lifeline offers mental health support to transgender and non-binary folks, and are reached 24 hours a day at 1-877-565-8860.

If you are in need of mental health services like counseling or medication, consider reaching out to the Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center. You can also find additional help in our resource guide

Setting Healthy Boundaries During the Holidays

Another thing that makes the holiday season unique is that we tend to gather together more with our friends and family. Holiday parties, religious observances, and family gatherings are all plentiful in November and December.

Getting together with friends and family sounds wonderful, and it often is. But a calendar full of commitments can be a source of stress during the holidays. In addition, strained family relationships can make these gatherings emotionally draining. 

Setting some healthy boundaries can help you enjoy the holiday season as much as possible.

Spend Time With Your Chosen Family

For some people, spending the holidays with the family they were born into is unsafe or emotionally harmful. If this is you, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on celebrating! You can make time to celebrate with your chosen family.

What is chosen family? “Chosen family” is simply a term for those people in your life who show up for you, no matter what.While not be related by blood, you’re bonded together in the ways that matter. Think of the people who matter the most to you, and plan a celebration with them — whether you’re related to them or not.

Choose Your Celebrations Wisely

This time of year means you’re probably getting lots of invites to holiday parties, gift exchanges, and other celebrations. You might feel like you have to attend everything you’re invited to, but in reality, a packed schedule can lead to more stress in your life.

You can pick and choose the holiday events that have the most meaning to you — you don’t have to accept every invitation that comes your way. Events that place a strain on your budget or your well being will increase your stress level, so feel free to say no to gatherings that don’t meet your needs right now.

How can you determine which holiday celebrations are right for you? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I want to attend this event, or do I feel like I have to attend this event?
  • Will this event cost money?
  • Will people be partaking in drugs or alcohol at this event?
  • Will I be expected to bring a gift or make a donation at this event?

Considering these questions can help you figure out what events to attend and what events to decline.

Create a Holiday Season That is Right for You

Movies, television shows, and social media can sometimes give us false expectations about what our holiday celebrations should look like. But there are no “shoulds” when it comes to celebrating the holidays. The celebration that is right for you is the one that meets your needs and allows you to enjoy the good things about the season.

If a big family dinner isn’t right for you, consider ordering pizza with your chosen family. If religious services aren’t your thing, don’t feel obligated to attend. If you want to avoid alcohol this year, don’t feel pressured to attend events where you’re expected to drink. Feel empowered to create holiday celebrations that fill your soul and lower your stress levels.

We know the holidays can be tough, and we’re here to help ease the stress. Be sure to explore the full SIDE by SIDE resource directory if you need help this holiday season.


Learn more about HIV


Get more information about living with HIV

Get Tested

Find testing and prevention resources


A collection of answers and resources

We’re here to connect you to the information and resources you need.

Do you have questions about HIV? Do you want to know more about testing, connecting to care, or how to show support? Are you interested in learning more about how SIDE BY SIDE can help your community? Fill out this contact form and someone from our team will be happy to help you find answers.


Please be sure to include your preferred method of contact. We respect your privacy and we do not share your information without your permission