What is usually seen as the “most wonderful time of the year” can be the most dreaded for many. The holidays can stir up a heavy mix often unwelcome emotions, causing the holiday blues. With the often overwhelming amount of stressors, managing your mental health during the holidays can feel impossible. It doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips and resources.
Take care of yourself.
Self-care. Pay special attention to your eating, sleeping, and downtime. It might be OK to skimp on a few hours of sleep just before a relaxing weekend but think again if that weekend will include the stress of traveling, visiting or other activities out of your normal routine. Don’t forget to factor in downtime, too. Planning every hour of your time off can seem like a great idea, until you realize there is no time left to unwind.
Fun, not perfection. Resist the urge to do everything you can to make the season perfect for everyone. Just have as much fun as you can and don’t expect it to be perfect.
Anticipate stress. Plan ahead of time what your strategy will be when times get stressful. Is it possible to take a walk outside for 15 minutes when a family gathering gets stressful? How about a trip to your favorite store if your schedule gets you down?
Source Mental Health America of Wisconsin, Holiday Depression & Stress
Holiday Mental Health Bill of Rights
You have the right to…
- Take care of yourself.
- Feel mixed up emotions around the holidays.
- Spend time alone thinking, reflecting and relaxing.
- Say “no” to party invitations.
- Ask for help and support from family, friends and community service agencies
- Say “no” to alcohol, drugs…and seconds on dessert.
- NOT to ride with a drunk driver, to take their keys away and to call a taxi for them.
- Give gifts that are within your holiday budget or go a step further and plan in advance with a monthly budget template.
- Smile at angry sales people and/or rude drivers and give them a peace of your mind.
- Enjoy your holiday the way you want.
Source: Mental Health America; Oneida Health Promotions: Holiday Survival Kit
Pat Bailey, City of Auburn Healthcare Consultant provided further insight and resources, “The Blue Ribbon Committee for Auburn – The Healthiest City in Washington – 2020 wishes all a Healthy and Happy Holiday Season! And, to help make it so, here are some tips for managing the holiday expectations from the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI),” said
Coping with Stress & Depression during the Holidays
Many people can experience feelings of anxiety or depression during the holiday season. People who already live with a mental health condition should take extra care to tend to their overall health and wellness during this time.
However, there are certain things you can do to help avoid the holiday blues. So, what are they?
The Holiday Blues are temporary feelings of anxiety or depression during the holidays that can be associated with extra stress, unrealistic expectations or even memories that accompany the season. This might include: fatigue, tension, frustration, loneliness or isolation, sadness, a sense of loss.
The difference between the holiday blues and clinical anxiety or depression is that the feelings are temporary. However, short-term problems must still be taken seriously because they can lead to long-term mental health conditions.
Tips for Staying Mental Health Healthy and Avoiding the Holiday Blues
- Stick to normal routines as much as possible.
- Get enough sleep.
- Take time for yourself, but don’t isolate yourself.
- Spend time with supportive, caring people.
- Eat and drink in moderation. Don’t drink alcohol if you are feeling down.
- Get exercise – even if it’s only taking a short walk.
- Make a to-do list. Keep things simple.
- Set reasonable expectations and goals for holiday activities such as shopping, cooking, entertaining, attending parties or sending holiday cards.
- Set a budget for holiday activities. Don’t overextend yourself financially in buying presents.
- Listen to music or find other ways to relax.
- Remember – the holiday blues are short-term. Be patient. Take things week by week or day by day.
Links and Resources
Stress, Depression, and the Holidays: Tips for Coping (Mayo Clinic)
Making the Most of the Holiday Season ( APA Help Center)
Holiday Depression, Anxiety and Stress (Medicine Net.com)