A holiday gift worth treasuring makes life for the recipient a little bit better.
The most thoughtful ones may not be the most expensive, like jewelry, or the most versatile, like cash, but rather have the recipient’s unique needs and lifestyle in mind.
As a friend, parent, partner, relative, or coworker to someone with mental health struggles, selecting the perfect holiday present can be challenging. How can you show this special person how much you understand them and support them—especially in a season particularly rife with difficulties like stressful to-do lists, gloomy weather, and potential family conflicts? Give them a customized, considerate gift to help make the season more enjoyable.
Be present for their needs
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), almost one in five adults deals with some type of mental illness, which it notes can affect how a person may “think, feel, act, make choices, and relate to others.” This makes it highly likely that someone you care about experiences such difficulties. While nothing can replace good mental health care, the ideal holiday gift can empower them to practice self-care or take steps to better manage their symptoms and improve their daily life. Follow this gift guide inspired by the NIMH’s self-care advice to show your support to a loved one this holiday season.
Home spa goods
Build the special person in your life a custom self-care kit stuffed with relaxation and wellness goods. For example, you could fill a box or gift bag with lotion and bath products in calming scents like lavender candles and bergamot, which can quiet the mind and even improve sleep. Include a gift card for a subscription to a relaxation or meditation app, a service that guides its members through calming breathing techniques and often offers soothing audio recordings that can fight symptoms of anxiety. Add in some products that cater to their routines, like shower steamer tablets or bath bombs, and you’ll equip them for a much-needed self-care day.
A home-spa box set may not be ideal for children, but that doesn’t mean they’re too young for self-care. Gift them soothing toys they will love such as scented therapy dough, which will discharge relaxing and therapeutic scents while keeping their hands busy and helping them release pent-up energy. Research shows that some toys can even stimulate children’s minds and improve their sensory processing. Good “edutainment” products include see-and-say games and toys that encourage interaction, like light-up instruments and shape-sorting toys. Just be sure to consider each child’s individual personality and the toy’s targeted age range, which can be found in its product details section, to avoid gifting a child a toy they’ve already outgrown.
Give your loved one the gift of a personal escape—a spot where they can check out and calm their mind. Indoor swings may offer a positive, soothing sensory experience for children with ADHD or autism, while an indoor tent can act as a quiet place to relax, read, and play. For adults, consider gifting a weighted blanket and entertainment like an engaging novel to make self-care moments more relaxing. Pillows, roll-out mats, and fairy lights can also help them design a peaceful retreat at home.
Giving a journal could be one of the most productive and helpful ways to show you care. This classic mental health tool offers a myriad of proven benefits, including relaxation, a way to process feelings, and even a simple distraction from life’s stressors. “Journaling can be a great pressure-releasing valve when we feel overwhelmed or simply have a lot going on internally,” says Amy Hoyt, PhD and founder of the therapeutic program Mending Trauma, in Healthline. There are many ways for your loved one to use this gift, including dream, food, or gratitude journaling, but it’s best if you simply give them the tool and leave any specific recommendations to a therapist.
If a friend or family member enjoys spending one-on-one time with you, offer them a gift they will cherish: some quality time together. Trips with them to a museum, convention, concert, or festival can be a balm to loneliness or feelings of isolation. But before you purchase tickets, make sure to confirm their expressed interest in a certain activity or event. For future celebrations like a birthday or anniversary, consider giving a subsequent gift that reflects on these moments together, such as a framed photo or signed poster from the event. Sometimes all they may need is a simple reminder that they are appreciated, and keepsakes of these memories will express that you treasure quality time with them and value their company.
Their fondest wish
This final gift idea may sound broad, but it’s actually the most specific: What does your loved one really want? Which TV series, graphic novels, music, or books are they passionate about? Have they expressed interest in developing a new skill? What kinds of supplies could help kick-start these projects? Gifting your loved one the activity or entertainment they enjoy most may be just what they need to help them escape from negative thoughts and feelings. Best of all, these personalized gifts will show them that you truly listen to them, care about their interests, and want to support their passions.
What to avoid
When showing your support for a loved one with mental health struggles, subtlety is key. Try to avoid giving gifts that spell out “I am giving this to you because of your mental health,” especially if they may open your gift publicly. In other words, avoid “othering” the person, or making them feel different because of their mental health needs. Even worse, you don’t want to communicate that their identity is built around their condition or struggles.
As MentalHealth.gov suggests, friends and family members should show support by “treating people with mental health problems with respect, compassion, and empathy.” How can you do so with a gift? Give a present that pertains to the individual, not the illness. Always have the recipient’s unique lifestyle and tastes in mind. If need be, you can reach out to someone close to them about what the recipient would enjoy. With a little research, you can select a gift that will truly mean something to a person who needs your care and support.
For more info, visit mentalhealth.gov