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Mental Health and Downtime: Scheduling Projects to Practice Self-care During the Holiday Season 

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I finally finished grading finals for the semester. Which feels bittersweet. For while I am grateful to have time off before the next semester begins, it’s over the holidays — historically, a dangerous time for me. Not only can the holidays be triggering, depressing and exhausting, but there’s a lot of unscheduled time. Downtime. And having downtime is the hardest time for me to deal. For without structure, it’s as if my brain and my body don’t know what to do. Which can be destructive. To others and to myself. 

It’s a time when the weight of work has lifted, causing my personal issues to rise to the surface. The ones I’ve put at the bottom. Buried. Now they’re standing there. Staring at me. Unearthed. And with weeks of no daily distraction ahead (well, aside from the holidays), I know I have no choice but to deal with it all. To deal with myself. 

And it’s not just dealing with my issues that’s difficult, it’s that pesky downtime. My mind and body need routine. Need to be active. I’m at my best when I’m moving. Like water. Flowing physically and mentally and hoping I emotionally follow suit. 

So, in an effort to boost my mental, physical and emotional health this holiday season, in addition to my daily self-care routines, I’ve decided to schedule projects. To keep my mind and body active. To prevent me from falling into depression. Despair. 

Here are the things I’m planning on doing this holiday season. I’ll schedule a little bit each day. And not be hard on myself with what doesn’t get done — it’s all about self-care. May all your projects make you feel just as merry and bright. 

House Projects:

  1. Line bathroom shelves
  2. Organize bathroom items 
  3. Clean and paint fireplace
  4. Organize bedroom 
  5. Organize laundry room
  6. Organize closet

Writing Projects: 

  1. Update website 
  2. Submit at least one article 
  3. Set up 2020 calendar: goals, visions, etc. 
  4. Write, write, write 

Reading Material: 

  1. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
  2. The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk
  3. Signs: The Secret Language of the Universe by Laura Lynne Jackson
  4. (Read an excerpt a day) Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro 
  5. (Read again after 23 years) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott


  1. Volunteer 
  2. Donate 
  3. Start a puzzle
  4. Walk outside even though it’s cold
  5. Be social even if it’s one on one

Also, remember, there are many ways to get help if you struggle during the holidays. I get it. It is the hardest time for many of us and usually the time our doctors and therapists and healers take a much-deserved break.

In addition to reaching out to a friend or a family member and to practicing self-care, you can connect to others online too. Psych Central hosts online support groups and there are online communities on Twitter and on Facebook too.

So whether you seek support in person or online, be sure to reach out when you feel down. And schedule your downtime! Your mind and body will thank you for it. And hopefully, your soul will feel good too. 

I wish you light and love this holiday season. May you be good to yourself and to others. 

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Mental Health and Downtime: Scheduling Projects to Practice Self-care During the Holiday Season 

Jenna Grace

Jenna Grace is a writer and educator with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sensory processing disorder (SPD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder (SAD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) diagnoses. She writes and speaks about topics including healing from trauma, coping with neurological disorder and practicing mindfulness in order to help others and to explore new meaning. Visit her website for more of her stories.

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APA Reference
Grace, J. (2019). Mental Health and Downtime: Scheduling Projects to Practice Self-care During the Holiday Season . Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Dec 2019
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