Mental Health and the Holidays
By Jill Smith
The holidays can be a time of gathering, joy, and family. However, for those struggling with depression or loss the season signifies a time of stress, anxiety, and worsened symptoms. In fact, 64% of those with mental illness reported that the holidays do make their symptoms worse.
The demands of preparing and entertaining family, travel, buying gifts, managing the flu and covid… the list as long as the line at the desk at Target and Starbucks.
Thankfully, mental health is now a part of our community lexicon. We are all observing, recognizing–and sharing–our emotional temperature. And doing something to protect and elevate or soothe the way we feel.
- Set realistic expectations. Knowing what to expect or what you want to experience from a certain event or gathering can decrease feelings of anxiety and/or disappointment. It also can allow you to feel more focused and engaged with those you’re with.
- Know the NO. The holidays are so very demanding… gatherings, events, shopping… It can be difficult to find time for yourself. Make sure you find time to decompress. This built-in “you time” gives you a chance to combat stress and anxiety. You can simply say “thank you for the invitation. I won’t be able to make it.”
- Find and name your feelings. Take a pause, put your feet on the ground, take a breath. What is your body feeling? Where? That is a great clue to figure out what you are feeling inside. Joyful, Scared, Dread, Peace, Confusion, Overwhelmed, Jealousy. The holidays can be a rollercoaster of emotions, and acknowledging how you feel can be the first step in figuring out why you feel that way, and how you can cope.
- This time of year is a marker. We hang memories on the holidays. We remember those who have died, those who are ill. And we remember unhappy, chaotic, or poverty impacted holidays where we felt left out of all the excess. Grieving is real and it can hang in the year this time of year. Like an unwelcome power outage, it can take the joy out of all the lights and glitter.
Just remember that you are not alone. Those beautiful commercials do not tell the whole story. None of us gets out of this season without heartache. It is part of the human condition. We see you and we are with you. We are here.