Mental Health and the Holidays

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Mental Health and the Holidays

The holidays are full of memory-making traditions, bonding experiences, and love. But for many, the holidays are also a time when their mental health suffers.
Although surrounded by festivities, you may be feeling down, depressed, anxious, or just sad. There are a ton of responsibilities and expectations with the holiday season. In fact, the “holiday blues” are a real thing and the first thing to know is that they are really common. Days are shorter and another year has passed.

Whether you’re feeling symptoms of depression, guilt, or regret, your feelings are valid. The best thing you can do is treat your mental health like you would your physical health. If you aren’t feeling mentally healthy, it’s time to address it and try some things to help yourself feel better.

While this isn’t a comprehensive list, these tips and tricks can help you start to address any mental health concern.

Communicate

Often we do a lot of talking but not a lot of communicating. Communicating what you’re feeling and what’s wrong can be challenging, but learning communication skills can help you navigate relationships and even learn more about your own mental health.

Don’t Isolate

You may feel the impulse to withdraw and stay by yourself. While it can be refreshing to have an afternoon to yourself, the impulse to isolate during a mental health issue is one that can have negative side effects. Push yourself to have one small outing a day, even if it’s just a walk to the corner store or around the block. It will help to lift your mood and keep you from wallowing in uncomfortable feelings.

Reach Out

While this can be difficult for some, it’s important to reach out. Whether it’s to a friend, a family member, or a trusted advisor, simply reaching out and explaining that you’re having a tough time can help you unwind the tangle of feelings you’re having.

Say “No”

It’s easy to overcommit during the holiday season. We place high expectations on these weeks of the year and with that, we expect a lot of ourselves. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, learn to say “no.” If you’re having social anxiety, turn down that extra party. If the thought of trying to bake a dozen pies for a bake sale almost throws you over the edge, just say “no.” People will understand. 

Don’t Over Indulge

Some of the fun of the holidays is the indulgent nature of them. We have big feasts, tons of desserts, and everyone is passing out gifts left and right. But with that, there are some dangers of overindulging. Remember:

Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

You may have the desire to escape your feelings, but using drugs and alcohol to do it can be detrimental to your health and dangerous. Instead, try a mindfulness technique or practice a hobby you love. Drugs and alcohol can actually worsen your symptoms so it’s important to not give in.

Don’t Overspend

It can be challenging to go through the holidays on a budget. While you may be spending a little more than you usually would during this time of year, make sure you aren’t overextending your wallet. This will only make it so you start the New Year with more anxiety and stress than you have now. 

Keep Occupied

If you find it difficult to keep from overindulging, keep a few hobbies or things to do on hand. Whatever it is – crafting, reading, exercising, etc. – having a plan for when you’re having the urge to overindulge will make it easier to resist in the moment. 

Self-Care

There’s a reason psychologists recommend self-care: it works. Aside from the basics of caring for your body, try these self-care tips to better your mental health:

Mindfulness

Mindfulness has quickly risen to be a favorite tool among mental health professionals. There are many ways to practice mindfulness. Do what works for you, whether that’s a guided meditation, journaling, or something else. You can also check out the Mindfulness Toolkit from the University of Southern California to get started. 

Sunlight

Just like plants, we need a little vitamin D. Often people feel down during the holidays because of Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern. Exposing yourself to bright lights and sunlight can help offset the shorter days and give you a boost of stress relief, concentration, and mental energy.

Stay in Therapy

If you’re already in therapy, the holidays aren’t the time to quit. Yes, the holidays can be busy and you may feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day. Prioritize your therapy. It will help you long-term to say no to another obligation and focus on your mental health with your therapist. 

Acknowledge Your Feelings

Don’t think about a pink elephant. Chances are, a pink elephant just popped into your head. Trying to force yourself to ignore your difficult emotions will often just make them louder. By simply acknowledging your feelings and allowing yourself to feel them, you can start to resolve them.

Set Realistic Expectations

One of the most important holiday-related things you can do is set realistic expectations with yourself. We all tend to idealize the holidays, but that sets us up for disappointment. Instead, identify what you’d like to happen and compare that with what will actually most likely happen.
The holidays are great but they can be challenging. Take the time to focus on yourself this year and have a holiday season full of fun but also a healthy mentality.

Choose Which Best Describes You

Our health assistant will contact you soon and we invite you to tell us your story.  This is a brief, free discovery call for the purposes of learning more about you and gathering information about how we may serve you. No services or diagnoses will be provided during this call. All information is confidential