Tis’ the season
Here we are again, another year has passed us by and we have reached back around to the holiday season. Last November, I focused on the holiday season during a pandemic. And while some things may not have changed with regards to COVID-19, this year I want to take the time to really delve into how the holiday season itself can impact your mental health.
Mental Health during the holidays
The time between Thanksgiving and New Years is often filled with love, joy, and thankfulness. Yet, it is also associated with a dizzying array of demands such as; cooking/baking, shopping, cleaning and entertaining. This holiday hustle and bustle not only heavily affects individuals who are prone to mental health illnesses but can also impact those who have never experienced a mental illness before. Here is just a brief look at the staggering numbers of people it can affect.
A National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) study found that 64% of people with mental illness report holidays exacerbate their symptoms. (NAMI California, 2020). This was broken down even further to show that approximately 24% of people find that the holidays make their illness “a lot” worse while 40% report their illness as “somewhat” worse (as cited in Discovery, 2021).
In another NAMI study, approximately 755 of the overall participants reported that the holidays contributed to feelings of sadness and dissatisfaction. The study then looked into where the feeling of dissatisfaction stemmed from. Sixty-eight percent of survey participants reported financial strain, 66% experienced loneliness, 63% felt an overwhelming sense of pressure, 55% reported remembering happier times in the past that contrasted with their present, and 50% were unable to be with loved ones (as cited in Discovery, 2021).
So… what’s the good news?
With all that being said, the “good” news is that evidence indicates that suicide rates do not actually spike around the holiday season (the highest rates are between April and August). In fact, November through January actually has the lowest daily suicide rates which means that mental health disorders themselves do not increase around the holidays, instead the signs and symptoms associated with mental health temporarily worsen around this time of year (Discovery, 2021).
Ways to Tend to your Mental Well-Being
Since we know all of this, it is extremely important to then understand how we can combat these negative holiday feelings.
Accept your needs
It is so easy to often neglect our needs and wants in order to make those around us happy. However, we need to be kinder with ourselves and make our own mental and physical well-being a priority. You can do this by looking at the people, places, and things that trigger you, in order to better prepare for when it arises.
- Is it something that you will need to avoid?
- Set better boundaries with?
- Or implement better coping skills?
The holidays are jam packed no matter how you look at it, so you are going to have to get good at prioritizing your time to balance activities and down time.
- If it helps, make a day-to-day schedule so that you can visualize your activities and deadlines in order to alleviate feelings of overwhelm.
- Remember it is okay to say no to plans that you don’t want to do or don’t fit into your schedule.
- Be realistic with your time and how long something may take.
- Don’t compare yourself to years past or what you may have been able to accomplish during a previous holiday season.
Holidays can stir up bad family dynamics. Acknowledge and accept your role in these dynamics in order to set boundaries that you can be in control of. Once again, it is okay to say no if you need to limit your exposure.
- Continue with Already Established Healthy Habits: Do not abandon your healthy habits.
- Limit your alcohol.
- Eat healthy meals, moderate all the delicious holiday cookies.
- Reach Out For Help: If you are feeling lonely, depressed, or anxious do not be afraid to reach out for help. You don’t need to go through it alone. Reach out to loved ones. And if at any point, during the holidays (or not) you or a loved one are experiencing a crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255. Use the Crisis Text Line by texting NAMI to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor for free, 24/7 crisis support via text message. You can also call the NAMI Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) M–F, 7 a.m.–3 p.m. PT for free mental health info, referrals and support.
If you are needing mental health support during the holidays, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be happy to direct your request to one of our professionals.
Discovery (2021). Raising Mental Health Awareness During the Holiday Season. Retrieved from https://discoverymood.com/blog/raising-mental-health-awareness-holiday-season/
NAMI California (2020). Maintaining Mental Health During the Holiday Season (and a Pandemic). Retrieved from https://namica.org/blog/handling-stress-during-the-holiday-season/