The holiday season is upon us, which means time to celebrate with family and friends and a time to reflect on the past year and celebrate everything you’re thankful for. But the holidays are also a time that brings more stress and anxiety with so much going on and so much demand on your time and emotions.
Stress from the holidays can make mental health struggles like depression and anxiety much worse. In fact, rates of depression, anxiety, and stress rise over the last couple months of the year. The so-called “Holiday Blues” are real and a number of factors play into how the holidays impact your mental health.
According to Lifeworks counseling center’s web article “How The Holidays Impact Your Mental Health,” when you understand how the holidays affect you, you can take the right steps to prioritize your mental health during the holidays. The article outlines how to understand the Holiday Blues, reasons the holidays impact your mental health, and how to manage your mental health during the holidays.
Here are some of the main points discussed in the article:
Understanding the Holiday Blues
When we imagine the holidays, we think of a joyous and happy time, and why wouldn’t we? The days are full of time spent with those you love, plentiful food, and gift-giving. However, when you take a step back, you begin to understand why so many people experience more symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.
The holidays are full of high expectations. People expect a lot from their friends and family, whether from the gifts they give or the reaction to food they cook. In many cases, people feel extreme loneliness. They see others spending time with the ones they love, but they don’t have a large gathering to go to themselves. These expectations put a great deal of stress on everyone.
For example, a recent National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) survey discovered that 24% of people living with a mental illness found that the holidays made their symptoms “a lot worse,” 63% experienced too much pressure and 57% felt there were unreal expectations.
Remember, in most cases, these symptoms are temporary, especially for those who don’t live with a mental illness. However, if you don’t look after your mental health, it can develop into clinical anxiety or depression. If your symptoms last over two weeks, contact a mental health specialist as soon as possible.
Reasons the Holidays Impact Your Mental Health
As mentioned, the holiday season is an incredibly busy time of year. Many people travel great distances to visit family. There is always something going on that people have to attend. While the holiday season is often a joyous time, it can weigh heavy on many people.
In many cases, people don’t even recognize how the holidays impact their mental health. While the Holiday Blues are temporary, if you don’t acknowledge what is going on and take action, they can develop into mental health disorders well after the holidays have passed.
There are a handful of factors throughout the holiday season that can weigh on your mental health. If you aren’t careful, they can build up and affect you long-term.
Managing Your Mental Health During the Holidays
While many things can bring down your holiday spirit, there are plenty of ways you can manage your mental health throughout the holiday season. Some of these tips include:
- Set Realistic Expectations: Every holiday season, people compare the current year to years past. But life changes. Set realistic goals for yourself and your holiday plans. Don’t compare yourself to past years. Focus on what you can do to make this holiday season the best it can be.
- Don’t Rely on Drugs and Alcohol: Alcohol is a natural depressant. So, while you might feel relieved at the moment, it isn’t a long-term fix. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), there is a 20% overlap between anxiety and mood disorders and substance abuse. Turning to drugs and alcohol for relief will only make things worse.
- Keep Following Healthy Habits: To piggyback off the last tip, do not abandon your healthy habits. If you limit your drinking, keep it up. Continue to eat healthy meals, exercise, and practice mindfulness techniques.
- Plan Ahead: Try to space out your responsibilities so that you don’t have to rush to complete them. Set aside days to shop for gifts. Plan a day to cook. Establish travel plans well in advance. Doing so will help ease the stress you feel.
- Say No: The holidays are incredibly busy. People tend to have a full schedule, but people often feel the pressure to say yes to everything. But that leaves you with more stress. Learn to say no. Leave yourself time to relax and decompress.
- Acknowledge Your Feelings: There are many reasons to feel upset during the holidays. It’s OK to feel this way. Acknowledge how you feel and tell yourself these feelings are validated. The more you bottled them up, the worse they will be.
Reach Out For Help
Above all else, Lifeworks recommends, do not be afraid to reach out for help. If you are feeling lonely, stressed, anxious, or depressed, you don’t need to go through it alone. Reach out to loved ones and let them know how you feel. They might be able to alleviate some of the stress that comes with the holiday season. Don’t feel ashamed of your feelings. They are perfectly normal.
Additionally, you can always reach out to the mental health professionals at Interim Inc. Contact Interim staff at the OMNI Resource Center by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (831) 800-7530.
We want everyone to enjoy the holiday season, which is why we are here to support you and help you manage your mental health. Remember, the holidays don’t have to be perfect to be great.