Are you stressed about the holidays? Do you need holiday mental health tips?
If you constantly find yourself saying, “the holidays stress me out,” you’re not alone. We’re here to offer you some holiday mental health resources to help.
Holiday stress, holiday blues, anxiety, seasonal depression, and even suicidal thoughts during holidays are not uncommon. As joy-filled as the season is, it’s also filled with a lot of chaos and things that can feel very triggering, especially for those already impacted by mental illness.
There are more crowds everywhere you go, traffic is a nightmare, there are lots of parties to attend, gifts to shop for, and potentially unwelcome guests and family members. For some, anxiety, depression, and mental health conditions can even come from being alone during the holidays and not having loved ones to spend the special occasion with.
Whatever the reason, it is normal to feel a wide range of more negative feelings and thoughts during the holidays. It’s important to put mental health first, taking care of yourself and your health care. It’s also important to have realistic expectations during the holidays to reduce stress.
If you are one of those individuals who tends to feel more stressed and even depressed during the holidays, it’s okay. Your feelings are valid, and there are plenty of other people out there like you who also struggle during the holiday season.
However, while added stress and anxiety are normal during the holidays, severe depression and suicidal thoughts should not be ignored. There is no shame in feeling low during the holidays, and it is okay to reach out for help and support if you need it. Contact your primary care physician or mental health professional if you need it.
And even if you aren’t necessarily depressed, it’s still important to be mindful of your needs. Ignoring your mental health, even if it’s just stress or anxiety, can make matters worse. And sometimes, there is nothing “just” about stress and anxiety, as these feelings can be crippling for some and lead to further mental health issues.
No matter how you feel, it’s important to acknowledge those feelings and take care of your mental health. For some, this may look like talking to a supportive friend; for others, it may be reaching out for professional help, and it can also be a matter of setting more boundaries and taking more time for yourself. Think of your mental health as you would first aid for a physical emergency…you need it when you’re in a bad place.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the connection between holidays and mental health, as well as offer holiday mental health tips to help you get through the season.
Mental Health and the Holidays
According to a study conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse.
Due to added stress, higher expectations, and loneliness, it’s common for people to get the “Holiday Blues” during the holiday season. For some, these symptoms and feelings may be temporary, but for others, they can last for weeks and can even result in a clinical diagnosis of depression and anxiety.
Some mental health conditions may even become harder to handle like bipolar disorder, eating disorders, or even as simple as the comparison trap on social media which can create depressed thoughts.
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Additional Research from the NAMI Study Found that:
- All respondents reported feeling sad and dissatisfied during the holidays
- 68% of people felt financially strained during the holidays
- 66% experienced loneliness during the holidays
- 63% felt too much pressure during the holidays
- 57% felt they were expected to meet unrealistic expectations during the holidays
“For many people, the holiday season is not always the most wonderful time of year,” said NAMI medical director Ken Duckworth. He also went on to say that “what the survey shows is a tremendous need for people to reach out and watch out for each other in keeping with the spirit of the season.”
In other words, take care of your mental health during the holidays and new year, get the help and treatment you need, and be supportive of others who might also be struggling like you. When you take the time and invest in your mental health by listening to holiday mental health tips and seeking advice, you are more likely to enjoy the holidays and overcome feeling anxious, depressed, and lonely.
The American Psychological Association says this about depression around the holidays: “With the high expectations for gift-giving, decorating, feasting and family gathering, holiday-related stress and the “holiday blues”—feelings of disappointment, sadness, fatigue or frustration—are not unusual. Spending time with difficult family members, grieving the loss of a loved one, feeling pressure to give gifts when finances are tight and even loneliness can leave people feeling sad, angry, or even depressed.
The holidays are already stressful, so if you struggle with mental illness, it’s understandable that this time of year might make you feel worse. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone, there are others out there you can talk to, and it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling and seek help or set boundaries if you need to.
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Common Mental Health Concerns People Have During the Holidays
There are often many questions raised about the holidays and how they impact mental health. A significant percentage of people today struggle with mental health issues. As such, it’s not uncommon for people to reach out for holiday mental help tips and ask questions about how to handle their stress, anxiety, and depression during the holiday season.
So, let’s take a look at some of the most common questions people ask concerning their mental health during the holidays and holiday mental health tips to help you deal with these situations.
How Do You Stay Mentally Healthy Over the Holidays?
The holidays are exhausting; there is no denying that. Even people who generally love the holidays often admit that they feel both mentally and physically wiped out after the holiday season. So it’s no surprise that a person who struggles with the holidays might feel even more mentally drained.
In many ways, staying mentally healthy over the holidays requires the same things as staying physically healthy.
For example, getting enough sleep is crucial for your mental health over the holidays. A chronic lack of sleep can make your mental health worse or lead to mental health issues if you don’t already have them.
Unfortunately, as there is often so much to do and so many expectations over the holidays, people often lose sleep this time of year.
So, one of the best holiday mental health tips is to get enough sleep. If you’re too tired to attend an event, a party, or a family gathering — just say no, or take a nap and get there a little late.
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You Can Say No During the Holidays
You are allowed to say no, especially if you’re exhausted. Attending a social gathering when you are running on too little sleep isn’t good for you or anyone else you will be around. You’ll be much better off if you catch up on sleep before going out to socialize for the holidays.
And while we are on the topic of “saying no,” that’s another important part of maintaining your mental health during the holidays.
People often feel obligated to do more than they usually would over the holidays, but you are allowed to say no and set boundaries. In fact, you should 100% learn how to say no more often if your mental health is on the line.
Boundaries are important in any situation, but if it’s a situation that potentially brings you more stress and anxiety than usual, like the holidays, you should allow yourself the space you need to ensure you don’t push yourself beyond your limits.
Understandably, saying people avoid saying no during the holidays because they are afraid of hurting someone or letting them down. But you can say no without hurting someone’s feelings. It’s all about your delivery and how you say no.
However, in the end, if you were mindful of how you told someone no and they still got upset, it’s ultimately not your job to manage their emotions. Your health and well-being are also important, and sometimes people just need to learn that it’s okay if you set healthy boundaries and say no, especially over the holidays.
How Do You Beat Holiday Anxiety?
So, what about the holiday causes anxiety specifically? There are lots of ways the holidays can affect your mental health, and anxiety is one of the most common conditions.
There are also lots of different ways a person can experience anxiety. Medical anxiety, for example, specifically refers to the anxiety one feels over visiting a doctor’s office or having a medical procedure done. And social anxiety is something experienced when someone fears being in public or in groups.
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Holiday anxiety is not that uncommon from these two types of anxiety, but it can also have its own unique differences. Like medical anxiety, holiday anxiety can include a fear of going to a certain place and not knowing what will happen when you’re there, like attending a holiday party or going shopping for gifts and having to navigate big crowds.
But holiday anxiety can also include very specific situations, like dealing with family that is coming to stay and visit from out of town that you don’t get along with. Or anxiety about being alone over the holidays because you don’t have a partner or family to spend time with.
Some people even feel anxiety about receiving presents when they can’t afford to buy gifts for others. Or they might still buy presents but then feel stress and anxiety about their financial situation and having spent more money than they should.
Overall, there are countless ways a person can feel anxious or develop anxiety during the holiday season. So, how do you cope with holiday anxiety?
Some of the Best Holiday Mental Health Tips for Beating Anxiety Include:
- Finding a support system — someone you can talk to about your anxiety, such as a friend or family member.
- Take hormonal supplements. Stress, which often leads to anxiety, can also result in a hormonal imbalance that can make your anxiety worse. So taking supplements or eating foods to help balance your hormones can also help cut down on your stress and help you better deal with your anxiety.
- Seek out relaxing coping mechanisms. If the holidays make you anxious, find things to do that help you alleviate your stress and take your mind off what is making you anxious. This can include meditation, exercise, yoga, journaling, listening to music, watching a comedy, or doing something that makes you laugh.
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- Get professional help. If your anxiety is overwhelming, talking to a professional might be the best course of action. If you don’t know where to start, you can always reach out to your general doctor. Lots of GPs and nurses are trained today to handle mental health issues with empathy. You don’t necessarily need to go straight to a therapist or psychologist to get the help you need. But, your GP can give you a referral if their guidance is not enough and you do need more specialized care.
How Do You Deal with Your Emotions During the Holidays?
One of the best holiday mental health tips for dealing with your emotions is to acknowledge them — do not ignore them.
Your emotions shouldn’t be seen as a hindrance but rather as a guide. It’s important to acknowledge your emotions because they could be telling you something important.
For example, if you are feeling sad during the holidays, do not try to ignore these feelings. If you do, it could make you feel more lonely and lead to depression. Instead, pay attention to your sadness and what is triggering it.
Are you sad because you are lonely? Feeling sad because you are missing someone who is no longer with you? Are you sad because of how your family is treating you?
If you listen to your emotions, you can figure out how to respond to them in a way that helps you feel better.
And if you are sad because you are lonely, you might benefit from reaching out to talk to someone, anyone. If you are sad because you miss someone who is gone, you can try thinking about the good memories you had with them, talk to them as if they were there with you, or visit their grave.
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If you are sad because of how your family is treating you, you might need to set boundaries with your family and take some time away from them. Or you might need to sit down and have a talk with them to let them know how you are feeling.
Overall, the best way to handle your emotions is to listen to them and sit with them and let yourself know that it’s okay to feel what you are feeling. Take the time to understand what your emotions are trying to tell you — only then can you respond accordingly.
Is Going on Holiday Good for Your Mental Health?
If dealing with family or any of your normal duties during the holiday season is all too much, you can also consider taking your own holiday or vacation to spend some time away from the chaos.
Whether this means simply taking a little weekend trip or a staycation where you solely focus on yourself and your needs, or even a longer trip where you spend the entirety of the holiday away relaxing and or having your own adventure — either way, taking some time for yourself can do your mental health a lot of good.
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Mental Health and Wellness Tips for the Holiday Season
To wrap up what we’ve already said and offered some additional advice, here’s a full list of holiday mental health tips to take away with you:
- Set boundaries, and don’t be afraid to say no
- Reach out for support and talk to friends and family
- Get enough sleep
- Take time away for yourself if you need to
- Acknowledge your feelings
- Be realistic about expectations
- Try to focus on the things that do bring you joy and happiness
- Plan ahead so you are prepared for events/gatherings/parties, and give yourself permission to leave when you need to
- Try not to overindulge — balance drinking and eating unhealthy foods at parties with healthy meals when you are at home
- Use healthy coping mechanisms — i.e. journaling, meditation, yoga, etc.
Get your FREE Mental Health Tip eBook
Looking for more mental health tips? Make use of free resources like this 50-Page Mental Health Tips eBook.
How to Handle the Holidays: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
We can’t reiterate this point enough: don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you are struggling with your mental health over the holidays. If there’s one main holiday mental health tip to take away from the article, it’s this. There is no shame in reaching out for professional help.
If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis it’s important for suicide prevention to call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Both lines are available 24/7, 365 days a year.
What are your go-to holiday mental health tips?
More About Guest Contributor
Luke Smith is a lifestyle and self-development writer who hopes to draw connections between our social, emotional, and physical well-being. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling or hiking with his dog.
Last Updated on December 13, 2022