The Holidays Can Weigh on Your Mental Health
As the year comes to an end, the holiday season is officially here! It is one of the busiest and most popular times of the year. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, the holidays are a time to get together with friends and family to celebrate everything you’re most thankful for in life. However, the busyness and stress of the holidays impact your mental health in ways you might not have thought about before.
The holidays involve gatherings with friends and family, gift-giving, cooking and baking, traveling long distances, and so much more. While this time is enjoyable for many, all of the stress from the holidays can make mental health struggles like depression and anxiety much worse.
The Holiday Blues are a real issue that affects countless people from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. A host of factors play into how holidays impact your mental health over this period. When you understand how the holidays affect you, you can take the right steps to prioritize your mental health during the holidays.
While the holidays are a time for love, joy, and thankfulness, they can be quite stressful for many people. Rates of depression, anxiety, and stress rise over these few months. If you struggle with the Holiday Blues or already have mental health issues, do not hesitate to contact Lifeworks Counseling Center.
Understanding the Holiday Blues
When we imagine the holidays, whether Thanksgiving or Christmas, we think of a joyous and happy time, and why wouldn’t we? The days are full of time spent with those you love, plentiful food, and gift-giving. However, when you take a step back, you begin to understand why so many people experience more symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.
The holidays are full of high expectations. People expect a lot from their friends and family, whether from the gifts they give or the reaction to food. In many cases, people feel extreme loneliness. They see others spending time with the ones they love, but they don’t have a large gathering to go to themselves. These expectations put a great deal of stress on everyone.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) conducted a survey recently that to measure the effect the holidays had on people’s mental health. Their results discovered:
- 24% of people living with a mental illness found that the holidays made their symptoms “a lot worse.”
- 40% of people living with a mental illness found that the holidays made their symptoms “somewhat worse.”
- Roughly 755 respondents reported that the holidays added to them feeling sad or dissatisfied.
- 68% felt financially stressed.
- 66% felt lonely.
- 63% experienced too much pressure.
- 57% felt there were unreal expectations.
- 55% found themselves remembering happier times in the past, comparing them with their present.
- Nearly half could not be with their loved ones.
Remember, in most cases, these symptoms are temporary, especially for those who don’t live with a mental illness. However, if you don’t look after your mental health, they can develop into clinical anxiety or depression. If your symptoms last over two weeks, contact a mental health specialist as soon as possible.
Reasons the Holidays Impact Your Mental Health
As we have already mentioned, the holiday season is an incredibly busy time of year. Many people travel great distances to visit family. There is always something going on that people have to attend. While the holiday season is often a joyous time, it can weigh heavy on many people.
In many cases, people don’t even recognize how the holidays impact their mental health. While the Holiday Blues are temporary, if you don’t acknowledge what is going on and take action, they can develop into mental health disorders well after the holidays have passed.
There are many factors that affect your mental health over the holiday season, such as:
- Planning holiday parties, dinners, or get-togethers.
- Buying gifts for loved ones.
- Traveling to and from holiday destinations.
- Spending too much money on gifts, food, and travel arrangement, among other things.
- Spending the holidays alone or away from your loved ones.
- Feeling as if you have to throw the perfect party or give the perfect gift.
- Not being able to afford gifts for your loved ones.
- Feeling as though you can’t live up to others’ expectations.
- The holidays remind someone of a recently passed family member.
There are a handful of factors throughout the holiday season that can weigh on your mental health. If you aren’t careful, they can build up and affect you long-term.
Managing Your Mental Health During the Holidays
While many things can bring down your holiday spirit, there are plenty of ways you can manage your mental health throughout the holiday season. Some of these tips include:
- Set Realistic Expectations: Every holiday season, people compare the current year to years past. But life changes. Set realistic goals for yourself and your holiday plans. Don’t compare yourself to past years. Focus on what you can do to make this holiday season the best it can be.
- Don’t Rely on Drugs and Alcohol: Alcohol is a natural depressant. So, while you might feel relieved in the moment, it isn’t a long-term fix. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), there is a 20% overlap between anxiety and mood disorders and substance abuse. Turning to drugs and alcohol for relief will only make things worse.
- Keep Following Healthy Habits: To piggyback off the last tip, do not abandon your healthy habits. If you limit your drinking, keep it up. Continue to eat healthy meals, exercise, and practicing mindfulness techniques.
- Plan Ahead: Try to space out your responsibilities so that you don’t have to rush to complete them. Set aside days to shop for gifts. Plan a day to cook. Establish travel plans well in advance. Doing so will help ease the stress you feel.
- Say No: The holidays are incredibly busy. People tend to have a full schedule, but people often feel the pressure to say yes to everything. But that leaves you with more stress. Learn to say no. Leave yourself time to relax and decompress.
- Acknowledge Your Feelings: There are many reasons to feel upset during the holidays. It’s okay to feel this way. Acknowledge how you feel and tell yourself these feelings are validated. The more you bottled them up, the worse they will be.
Reach Out for Help
Above all else, do not be afraid to reach out for help. If you are feeling lonely, stressed, anxious, or depressed, you don’t need to go through it alone. Reach out to loved ones and let them know how you feel. They might be able to alleviate some of the stress that comes with the holiday season. Don’t feel ashamed of your feelings. They are perfectly normal.
Additionally, you can always reach out to the mental health professionals at Lifeworks Counseling Center. We want everyone to enjoy the holiday season, which is why we are here to support you and help you manage your mental health. Remember, the holidays don’t have to be perfect to be great.