Holiday parties, family gatherings, shopping and sharing time-honored recipes are what most people associate with the holiday season. However, for some, it’s far from being the most wonderful time of the year. Coined the “holiday blues,” this condition should not be taken lightly.
Many people experience varying levels of anxiety or depression during the holidays, especially those with pre-existing mental health conditions. Whether it’s the extra stresses and unrealistic expectations that accompany the season or feelings of loneliness and sadness, the holiday blues can be hard to shake. But managing it and even staying ahead of it is possible if you practice these common tips:
• Avoid excessive spending. Plan ahead and set a budget for your holiday gift giving. Stick to your budget and be responsible. Consider only spending cash or giving a homemade present this year.
• Take people at face value. With the holidays comes an influx of family members and friends that you may only see once a year. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of people that have a negative effect on you. Surround yourself with people who make you happy.
• Let it go. Don’t try to get everything done in one day. Set realistic goals. Make a list and try to check off two to three items every day. Furthermore, it’s perfectly okay to task others with sharing some of the holiday responsibilities.
• Get adequate sleep. A good night’s sleep is incredibly important to your physical and mental health. In fact, it’s just as important as eating healthy and exercising.
• Don’t overindulge. There are countless opportunities to overindulge in rich food and alcoholic beverages during the holiday season. Overindulging can lead to feelings of guilt or shame, deflating your self-esteem. The goal should be to limit consumption rather than eliminating it entirely—everything in moderation.
• Keep active. When you plan your holiday schedule, allow yourself opportunities to be active. And while the average person may only gain about a pound during the holidays, this pound is one that most people never lose—and it adds up! In addition, exercise is great for mental health.
• Take up a hobby. Combat loneliness and isolation this winter by picking up a winter hobby, joining a group or volunteering with a local nonprofit. Plus, there’s no better way to make new friends!
• Ask for help. If you know that you typically have a tough time during the holidays, ask friends and family members to check in on you from time to time. Talking about your struggles tends to put them in perspective.
• Make a mental health crisis plan. If you are someone who experiences the holiday blues, plan ahead. This can include specifying someone to call when things become too much to handle or scheduling an appointment with a therapist. You know yourself and what’s best for you.
For those who already have a mental health condition, be sure to continue your therapy sessions. Don’t skip one just because things are busy. And if you’re taking prescription medications, beware of the side effects of mixing your medications with alcohol.
The holiday season is a wonderful time of year. Be in the moment and take time to laugh and enjoy the festivities.
Mary Jo Whitfield, MSW is Vice President of Integrated Health at Jewish Family & Children’s Service. More information about behavioral health and counseling services available at Jewish Family & Children’s Service is available at www.jfcsaz.org.