The holiday season is approaching and many are preparing for the festivities of the season. As we are preparing, it is important to also prepare our mental health. The holiday season can be triggering for many reasons. According to the American Psychological Association, 38% of people surveyed said their stress increased during the holiday season, which can lead to physical illness, depression, anxiety, and substance misuse. The reasons given: lack of time, financial pressure, gift-giving, and family gatherings. The reasons vary by individual and can all have a major impact on mental health.
Those who already have a serious mental health condition should take extra care of their wellbeing and overall wellness. With the extra stress that comes with the holidays, those can be more at risk for feelings of depression and anxiety. There are signs and symptoms that can help people be aware of potential holiday blues. The most common symptom is persistent feelings of sadness and depression that begin during the holiday season. Some other signs of holiday depression might include
- Losing interest in things you normally enjoy to do
- Changes in sleep pattern
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Feeling more tired than usual
- Depressed or irritable mood
The holiday blues may manifest themselves in different ways. Knowing the signs and symptoms of what they are can help manage the potential risk of the holiday blues. If you are starting to notice the signs and symptoms of the holiday blues, there are things you can do to cope with the stress that comes from the holidays. In addition to seeking professional help if needed, having mechanisms to reduce mental health challenges during the season can make the holiday blues easier to cope with.
- Set Realistic Expectations – The holidays are easy to inspire perfectionism. Everyone wants a perfect Christmas for their family and friends. It is important to keep expectations reachable and realistic. It is okay to say “no” to activities that may bring more stress to the season. Create boundaries that you need to support your mental health. Focus on enjoying the experience of the holiday season. The holiday season does not have to be perfect. Having meaningful and memorable moments for you and your loved ones is what matters.
- Take Care of Yourself – Whether you already have mindful practices in place, or new to the practice, take time for self-care. Take a few moments out of the day for self-soothing or stress-releasing activities that can help take care of yourself. Exercising, eating nutritious and healthy foods, and giving yourself the opportunity to sleep more are essential to your mental health. It is important to not let the holidays interfere with healthy habits. Remember the benefits of self-care and prioritizing yourself can help decrease stress level and depression.
- Don’t Isolate Yourself– While taking a little time to yourself during the holidays can be beneficial, it is also important to not isolate yourself during the season. Look for ways you can enjoy social connection, even if you aren’t able to go home for the holidays. Social isolation can be a major risk factor for depression. If you are on your own, reaching out to find social support may feel like a challenge. However, if you are feeling lonely, try to reach out to a friend, volunteer, or join a club. Social connection can be extremely beneficial for mental health during the holidays.
Holiday blues can turn the season into something we dread. Remember you are not alone and many people experience these feelings. Taking these steps to prepare yourself can help manage and prevent the increased stress. Learn to recognize what triggers the holidays may bring so you can combat them before they hinder your mental health. If the holiday blues prolong past the season and the coping mechanisms seem to not be working, your symptoms might be a sign of something else. It is important to reach out for professional help if you or a loved one is struggling.
– By Anabel Feauto, Health Promotion Specialist
Valeo’s Crisis Center is located at 400 SW Oakley Avenue. Valeo’s Crisis Center never closes, it is a walk-in emergency clinic with no appointment necessary. Valeo’s 24-Hour Crisis Line is 785-234-3300
Valeo Behavioral Health Care
400 SW Oakley, Topeka, KS 66606
24 Hour Crisis Line: 785-234-3300
National Suicide Prevention Life Line
Shawnee County Suicide Prevention Coalition
Family Service and Guidance Center (18 and under)
325 SW Frazier, Topeka, KS 66606
24 Hour Crisis Number: 785-232-5005
Healing after Loss to Suicide Group (HeALS)
Sandy Reams – Group Facilitator