As the Thanksgiving season comes to a close and we are fast approaching the holiday season, it is important to touch on the fact that the holidays bring out mixed emotions, ranging from joy to sadness. For those who struggle with mental health problems, the holidays often worsen stress, anxiety, and depression.
During the holiday season, there are many ways that anxiety and depression may show up in someone’s life. Whether it be the financial burden of gift giving, or traveling, or feeling overwhelmed with a packed calendar to feelings of loneliness for those who cannot be with or do not have a close group of families or friends – there are lots of challenges to face. However, there is hope to get through!
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) posted an article in 2017 on how to manage your mental health during the holidays. Here are some of their tips:
- Practice Mindfulness
- When feeling overwhelmed, practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is defined as a “mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment”. Mediation is a great way to practice mindfulness and there are many online guided mediations for beginners.
- Don’t Relay on Drugs and Alcohol
- While drugs and alcohol seem like an easy escape from the tough times, and even be present at holiday parties, these substances can ultimately worsen your issues. Before the holidays, figure out a healthy alternative coping mechanism such as music, walking, mediation or just something you enjoy doing.
- Soak up the Sun
- If you are in a sunny climate, take advantage of the rays! Especially those who suffer with Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern – bright lights can help ease the symptoms. Additionally, taking a walk or just spending time in nature can provide stress relief and improve mental energy. Also, for those who are in less sunny climates, Happy Lamps are also a great alternative!
- Set Realistic Expectations
- Additionally, to add stress during the holidays, people often find themselves reflecting on what they have accomplished over the past year. This often brings stress and anxiety to those who feel like they have not reach all the milestones they set for themselves. Get yourself out of this head space by creating realistic goals and try not to be so hard on yourself.
- Get out and move! Exercise stimulates the body and produces endorphins, which is known as the body’s “feel-good” hormone. At the same time, while exercising, one can take a break from their current concerns and negative thoughts because their focus is elsewhere. Click here to see a list of great exercise options!
- On the same note, volunteering can also distract the mind from those negative thoughts that often pop up. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or at a local charity. By volunteering, you can reduce your stress and can combat depression by providing one with a sense of accomplishment. Additionally, you can form bonds with those around you – expanding your social network.
In the end, holidays are not always an easy time for all. We hope that we have provided you with some helpful tips that can make the holiday season a little more enjoyable. Just know that there is always someone out there willing to offer a helpful hand, all you need to do is reach out.
“Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.”
– Elie Weisel