The holiday season can be a hectic time, between the planning, preparing, and obligations to fulfill. This can trigger the Holiday Blues, feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. On the opposite end of the spectrum, this is also a time where individuals may become acutely aware of their loneliness or feelings of grief over the loss of a loved one.
The Holiday Blues can happen to anyone, at any age. There are many things happening around the holidays that can act as triggers. The holidays can be particularly difficult for those living with mental illness, according to a recent survey, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 24% of individuals with a diagnosed mental illness reported that the holidays make their condition “a lot” worse, and 40% reported it to be “somewhat worse”.
Managing the feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression can seem overwhelming, but there are many simple tips that can help. The first step is to identify the trigger of your distress, is it financial? Nostalgia? Upcoming visits with family? If the feelings become overwhelming, it is best to seek help from a behavioral health professional or your doctor.
What Can I Do?
- Work within a budget: Financial woes can be a main trigger during the holidays. Set a budget early in the year and start saving. When the holidays arrive, stick to using cash or debit for purchases.
- Too many obligations: You may have unrealistic expectations or have taken on too many obligations. Make a list and prioritize what’s most important to you, cutting out the things that aren’t a priority and share the responsibility of holiday tasks with others. Set a self-care routine and stick to it.
- Family stress and conflict: Every family has unique dynamics, and not everyone may get along. If a touchy issue arises, shift the topic of discussion, or suggest revisiting the topic at a later time and excuse yourself to help in the kitchen or visit with family members in another room.
- Loneliness and loss: Feelings of loneliness and loss of a loved one can arise during the holidays. Acknowledge your feelings of loss, then establish a new tradition to honor your loved one. Find a winter hobby, or local charitable organization to volunteer with. Spend time with supportive and caring people who are uplifting.
- Year-end reflection: The end of the year is a time where many of us reflect on what has changed or stayed the same. Give yourself credit for what went right, focus on what you do have instead of dwelling on what you feel went wrong or that you are missing.
- Practice mindfulness: The holidays come and go quickly, focus on staying in the moment and avoid dwelling on the past or the future.
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