The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it’s no wonder. The holidays affect Mental Health often by presenting a dizzying array of demands — cooking meals, shopping, baking, cleaning, and entertaining, to name just a few. In addition, if coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is spreading in your community, you may be feeling additional stress, or you may be worrying about your and your loved ones’ health. You may also feel stressed, sad, or anxious because your holiday plans may look different during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the holidays are the perfect time to enjoy your loved ones and celebrate, mental health struggles such as depression and anxiety can take over and ruin this precious time. According to Banyan Mental Health, the holiday season consists of party planning, baking, gift-giving, and more. This can bring about unwanted stress for people who already deal with mental health issues on a daily basis. It’s important to take the time to regroup when you feel overwhelmed during this time, as you can still enjoy the holiday season with your loved ones. The mental health experts at Banyan Mental Health explain how the holidays affect mental health and illnesses and how to manage the common symptoms.
The Holidays Affect Mental Health by bringing Stress
When it comes time to plan a holiday party for your friends and family members, there can be added pressure to make sure that everything is perfect. For someone who deals with anxiety on a regular basis, this can add to the daily symptoms that are often debilitating. It’s important to be realistic when it comes to preparing for the holidays. Your celebrations do not have to be perfect, and you don’t have to please everyone. As families expand, more people will have input into the traditions they want to be practiced. It’s okay to change up how you spend the holidays and who you spend them with.
Even though the holidays affect Mental Health, but are an exciting time, many people can feel sad when they don’t have the opportunity to be with their loved ones, or even when a loved one is no longer with them. This sadness can turn into a seasonal depression, and you may feel like the holidays are completely ruined. However, it’s okay to feel sadness during this time. Reaching out to supportive friends and surrounding yourself with people will help you feel happy again. Talking through your emotions with a therapist or loved one instead of hiding them will help you overcome this depression.
According to the Mayo Clinic, with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.
Tips to Prevent Holiday Stress and Depression
When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.
Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones for other reasons, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious, or other social events or communities. Many may have websites, online support groups, social media sites or virtual events. They can offer support and companionship. If you’re feeling stressed during the holidays, it also may help to talk to a friend or family member about your concerns. Try reaching out with a text, a call, or a video chat. Volunteering your time or doing something to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships. For example, consider dropping off a meal and dessert at a friend’s home during the holidays.
The holidays affect Mental Health and don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children or other relatives can’t come to your home, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails, or videos. Or meet virtually on a video call. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find ways to celebrate.
Set aside differences.
Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
Stick to a budget.
Before you do your gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives: donate to charity in someone’s name, give homemade gifts, or start a family gift exchange.
Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, connecting with friends, and other activities. Consider whether you can shop online for any of your items. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for meal prep and cleanup.
Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
Don’t abandon healthy habits.
Don’t let the holidays affect mental health in a way that becomes a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Try these suggestions: Have a healthy snack before holiday meals so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese, or drinks. Eat healthy meals. Get plenty of sleep. Include regular physical activity in your daily routine. Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga. Avoid excessive tobacco, alcohol, and drug use. Be aware of how the information culture can produce undue stress and adjust the time you spend reading news and social media as you see fit.
Take a breather.
Make some time for yourself. Find an activity you enjoy. Take a break by yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing, and restoring inner calm. Some options may include: taking a walk at night and stargazing. listening to soothing music or reading a book.
Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or mental health professional.
Take Control of the ways that Holidays affect Mental Health
Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.
This article is provided by Dr. Ralph Kueche (Child Psychologist). Dr. Kuechle is a Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychologist who specializes in treating children and their families who may be struggling with mood and behavioral issues. Learn more about Dr. Kuechle.