Mental Health Tips During The Holidays

For many people, the stress of the holidays can trigger anxiety, sadness, and depression. This time of year is especially difficult because the expectation of what people think they are supposed to feel is not what they are actually feeling.  During the holidays most people think they are supposed to feel joyful and generous but with the added stress of planning, shopping, and preparing what we end up feeling is overwhelmed.  It is important for us to protect our mental health and keep our expectations in check this time of year.  Here are a few things that can add to the stress of the holidays and some solutions to help have an enjoyable holiday season this year.

Finances. Not having enough money to purchase the gifts you would like or not being able to celebrate can lead to feelings of guilt and sadness.  It is important to stick within your budget.  Get crafty and consider a homemade gift or get creative in the kitchen with baked goods. Another budget friendly gift you can give someone is your time.  Maybe just setting a date to do something with your friend or family member will create memories that will last forever. Most importantly, do not feel ashamed if you cannot give the gifts you would like and be honest with your friends and family.  Let your loved ones know how much you care and would like to but cannot afford it. That intimate moment will relieve your stress and create a bond.

Grief. Missing a deceased loved one is painful but is especially difficult during the holidays.  It is important to remember that even though our loved ones are not here with us on these special days, they would not want them to be sad days. Think of the fun times you experienced with your lost loved ones.  Celebrate their lives, instead of grieving them.  Start a new tradition to honor your loved one such as lighting a candle, making a toast, or hanging a stocking with a handwritten note in it.

Perfectionism. Trying to please everyone can make you feel like you are not doing enough, which can lead to depression.  The added stress such as shopping, planning, parties, cooking can make you feel worn down.  Do not allow perfectionism to get the best of you.  Know your limits and be sure to ask for help.  Be sure to help yourself by simplifying your commitments and identifying situations that bring on added stress. Strive to have the best possible holiday by being grateful for what you have, enjoying the time spent with friends and family, and not worrying too much about what did not get done.

Loneliness. Holidays can trigger feelings loneliness and anxiety.  When others are with their families, it can be very painful for those who are alone. If you are newly divorced, the holidays may remind you of happier times and accentuate your grief.  If you are not speaking to a relative, family get-togethers can make you feel sadness, guilt, and resentment. The important thing to keep in mind is that these feelings will not last forever. Do not isolate. Reach out to others who also may be lonely. If you do not have someone to be with, volunteer to help those in need. It can be very uplifting and gratifying.

Overindulgence. For many people trying to stick to a healthy lifestyle, the holiday season can cause some stress. Do not let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.  It is okay to indulge but do not overconsume.  The added hustle and bustle will have us feeling worn down, so it is important to stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep.  Be sure to find time to exercise and stick to your routine as much as possible.  Enjoy the holiday food but be practice mindfulness so you do not over consume.

Seasonal Affective Disorder.  (SAD) is a condition that happens during the winter and holiday months.  This depressive condition often occurs as the days become shorter, darker, and colder.  Try to get out and embrace the colder weather by participating in outdoor activities such as an outdoor walk or a visit to the park.  Low impact exercise is a great way to boost your mood.  Light box therapy is another way to help fight SAD.  Start your day sitting by a light box and having a hot cup of coffee.  Lastly, fill your social calendar or plan a vacation somewhere warm.  Having something to look forward to will help the winter months pass.

If symptoms of sadness and depression are severe or continue beyond the holidays take care of yourself and seek professional help.