Mental Health and the Holidays

This is a re-post of a blog I wrote for Connections Wellness Group. The original blog is posted here.

For many people, the holidays are the happiest time of the year. For others, it can be the most difficult season for their mental health. The holiday season can be the hardest time of the year due to many factors like past trauma during this time, losing a loved one that you used to enjoy this season with, seasonal depression, or negative memories that are associated with this time of year. 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse (NAMI, 2014). With all the social gatherings, gift-giving, and lack of sunlight it can be a stressful time.

The holiday blues are different from mental illness, but short-term mental health problems must be taken seriously as they can lead to clinical anxiety and depression (NAMI, 2014). This can be heightened anxiety, depression, or stress that is experienced during the holidays. You might catch yourself comparing yourself to others and thinking “what is wrong with me…everyone else seems so happy?” This can be exacerbated when people react negatively when you are trying to share how you feel. When others respond with things like “this is the best time of the year!” it can make you feel even more isolated. Seeing happy families or couples may remind you of how different your situation is.

Below are a few ideas to help…

  1. Create your own traditions
    If spending time with your family or taking part in classic traditions will lead to a negative mental health state try to find your own ways to celebrate even if it is by yourself! Some ideas include a self-care day scheduled at your local spa, volunteering at a local food shelter, or just making sure you do an activity you enjoy during the busy season. Celebrate in a way that makes you happy! You do not have to go to events or do things that truly make you uncomfortable. If you know you will pay a mental price for it later then consider your options.
  2. Confide in someone who will support you
    The societal pressure to be happy at holiday events can be a heavy weight to carry. Whether it is your best friend or your dog it can feel good to just let it out. If you want to talk to a licensed professional, you have options. It is important that you feel heard and can share your frustrations.
  3. Know that your feelings are valid
    Even if most people (or no one you know) can relate to your feelings know that they are valid whatever the reason. This can be a difficult topic to discuss and others may feel the same but are scared to share their feelings. There are many explanations for why this may be a difficult time and there are professionals who care. Connections Wellness Group has therapists, psychiatrists, and programs available if that is the right fit for you. Call us today to schedule an appointment!

Most importantly, know that you are not alone. Even if you may not feel this way be sure to check in with your loved ones during this time. Like many issues when we are brave and raise our voices, we find out we are not the only ones. Did this resonate with you? Continue the conversation on Facebook or Instagram!

References: NAMI Multicultural & International Outreach Center. (2014, November). Mental Health and the Holiday Blues

*header image photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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