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The holidays are hard if you struggle with mental illness—don’t blame yourself

By Kesha

The holiday season is supposed to be the most festive and fun time of the year, but sometimes it can quickly become a stressful and emotional time. All those plans and expectations of joy can turn tougher than they sound. This is especially true for those of us who struggle with mental illness—be it depression, anxiety, addiction, or any other challenges.

The holidays break your routine. 

Sometimes, you’re forced to spend time with family you rarely see and don’t always get along with. Or maybe you’re alone when everyone else is with family. Or you are off from work, with more time to think troubling thoughts. Or you are at work and can’t be with those you love. Or you are thrust into party situations that tempt your demons. Or you aren’t invited to those tempting parties.

In so many ways, the holidays can throw you off your game—and that can shake you. When you have a routine, it’s easier to manage whatever mental struggles you may be faced with, and when that routine is broken, it can trigger things you may not be ready to face. I know it has for me. It was during the holidays when I hit a low moment and with the help of my mother decided to seek help for my eating disorder.

It’s not selfish to take time for yourself.

Around the holidays, I often feel like I’m supposed to be everywhere, with everyone—all with the added guilt that it’s the season of giving. To fight this, I’ve developed a mantra: It’s not selfish to take time for yourself.

Take a walk in nature. Talk to a friend you trust or a therapist. Sit out one of the holiday gatherings in favor of some personal time. Just do whatever helps you calm down and gives you a break from the stress. Download one of the many meditation apps for your phone. I particularly like “Calm” and “End Anxiety.”

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It’s not your responsibility to try to make the whole world happy. Especially since sometimes it’s not that easy to make yourself happy, either—even with all the celebrations and gifts and seasonal decorations, foods and drinks, which can only do so much. So don’t ask yourself things like “It’s almost Christmas, why am I not happy?” That can turn into a shame cycle. It’s just another day—don’t put unrealistic expectations on it, and don’t beat yourself up.

Trying to spend all of your time pleasing everyone else is not only exhausting—it’s impossible.

Trying to spend all of your time pleasing everyone else is not only exhausting—it’s impossible. And you know what? If you take a little time for yourself, you will actually be much better company for those around you.

This holiday season, I will be missing a beloved member of my family who passed away recently, but I have to remember to be thankful for the family that I do have, and careful not to fall into an existential crisis downward spiral. And most importantly just remember to give yourself a break!


Kesha is a Grammy-nominated singer.

This story originally appeared on

Health, Illness & Injury Mental health Mental illness Holidays

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