Maintaining Mental Health this Holiday Season by Giving


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by Vonnie Woodrick

December has always been filled with creating memories with family and friends, such as baking cookies, singing Christmas music, and if we are lucky: snow!

We live in a busy world of hustle and bustle; add the potential stress of holiday gatherings and stretching tight budgets to buy gifts for loved ones, and the escalating stress of seeing others posting about their perfect holidays on social media, the holidays can be as stressful as they are joyful. 

How can we hold on to joy this holiday season when we overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, frustration, or guilt? Let’s remind ourselves that we are not Santa Claus — we each have our own limitations. Saying no and recognizing what we are capable of is the first step to prevent holiday burnout. If you are realistic in what you can afford, the amount of time you can give, and whom you choose to spend your valuable time with, remaining merry and bright this holiday season may become a reality.

I have found that the most rewarding stress reducer this season is giving. Giving can range from all sorts of simple acts of kindness, such as a smile or a hug, helping someone load groceries into their car, buying a cup of coffee for a stranger, cleaning the snow off car windows in your work parking lot, all of this has the potential to bring a smile to someone’s face and warm your own heart by doing so.

Here are a few other ways to give this season: 

Create care packages for the homeless with essential items like socks, gloves, hand warmers, Chapstick, toothbrush/toothpaste, granola bars and bottled water. These care packages can easily be kept in your car and given when the need may arise. You can also participate in the Purse Project by filling a purse or backpack with essential items and dropping them at Micro Visions, Inc. during designated collection times. Click here for more information. 

The Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan houses families from throughout Michigan who have children in the hospital. It can be immensely difficult to be away from home in times of distress, especially if a loved one is struggling with a physical illness or mental health crisis. The house invites businesses to sign up to make meals in their industrial kitchen so families can take a moment to enjoy a warm home-cooked meal. This is a fun and meaningful way to

bring some comfort to others while bonding with your company team members. For more information:

Are you looking to get involved on a bigger scale? Join 100 Women Who Care. It only takes four one-hour evenings annually along with a donation of $100 at each meeting. 100 Women Who Care has donated over $130,000 in just the past four years to support local nonprofit organizations. Through their efforts, more than 600 local elementary school children received warm winter coats through the Doyle Family Foundation and their Coats for Kids Program; and The Revive & Thrive project utilized donations to provide healthy meals for those battling serious illness in the Grand Rapids area. These are just two examples of the impact 100 Women Who Care has had in our community. 

“We all have the same passion, a love for those less fortunate than we are, an excitement to be able to make such a large impact on so many people and organizations in West Michigan,” Mary Jo Baweja of the Grand Rapids 100 Women Who Care, said. Go to for more information

For some, the holidays bring very little merriment as they may be dealing with the loss of a loved one, a change in family dynamics due to divorce or separations, financial hardships from job loss or even depression. 

 If we are struggling, the best thing you can do is acknowledge your hardships, find safe family or friends to talk to and create an action plan. Help is always available, but it starts by asking,

If you are experiencing loss or are the caregiver to someone who is struggling with a mental health illness, join i understand at one of our support groups. It helps to surround yourself with those who are going through a similar experience; you will no longer feel alone and the support given provides hope. For more information, visit

Do what you need to do for you this holiday season; by doing so you just may find the best gifts you don’t find under the tree, you find them in your heart.

If you are struggling this holiday season, help is available 24/7 through the national helpline: 1.800.273.TALK and text line is available by texting GO to 741741.