Mental Health During the Holidays
Holidays can be filled with joy and celebration, however, they can also bring sadness, grief, anxiety, stress, fatigue, and loneliness. The holidays can be a difficult time for anyone with mental illness, substance use problems, or people dealing with grief.
There are many reasons why the holidays can be a difficult time for our mental health. Listed below are some challenges you may face during the holidays and some strategies to minimize the impact on your mental health.
Money. There are many expenses during the holidays. Whether you are buying gifts, food, or traveling, you may overextend yourself. Try to plan your budget in advance and stick to it. Only spend cash or debit so that you aren’t faced with a large credit card bill in the New Year. Suggest a “Secret Santa” gift exchange to your family or focus on spending time together or lending a helping hand; not all gifts cost money.
Family. Not everyone in a family always gets along. Family members may try guilt trips or push boundaries and you may feel obligated to do things you don’t want to. Set boundaries with your family and communicate them. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. If family time is stressful, try scheduling shorter events, instead of a whole weekend. Choose one family to visit each holiday instead of trying to see and please everyone.
Overindulging. During the winter months, our activity levels may slow down and there are many opportunities to eat rich food and drink alcohol which can lead to feelings of guilt or shame. When you plan your holidays, make time to be active. Be gentle with yourself and understand that your goal is to limit consumption and inactivity, not eliminate it entirely.
Taking on too much. You may be over-committed or experience unrealistic expectations during the holiday season. Pace yourself and don’t take on more than you can handle. Make a list and prioritize activities; cut out the things that aren’t truly important. Decide on your limits and stick to them. Ask others to share the responsibilities.
Loneliness and Isolation can be a concern for many people. Try picking up a winter hobby or join a group, this will give you planned interactions. Volunteer with a local non-profit; you may even make new friends. Look for free local holiday activities. If you know that you have a tough time during this season, tell people to check on you.
Loss. The holidays can be a reminder of the loss of a loved one. Acknowledge that this holiday season will be different. Spend time with supportive and caring people who understand what you are experiencing.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to seasonal changes. The symptoms include tiredness, depression, mood changes, irritability, trouble concentrating, body aches, insomnia, decreased interest in activities, and overeating. If you are experiencing symptoms of SAD, speak to a mental health professional about the options available to you.
You may run into these or other mental health challenges during the holidays. Try to predict what challenges you may experience and plan a strategy for how you will cope. It’s important to remember that 1 in 3 people feel sad or lonely during holidays; this is normal and you are not alone.
If you need some extra support this holiday season, call 2-1-1, a helpline and website that provides information on and referrals to community, social, health-related and government services. There are many other online and phone resources that can provide support for mental health. There are even free apps that you can download on your phone that may help you through the holidays.
By: Naomi Giuliano who is a Community Health Worker at NorWest Community Health Centres.
For more information about resources check out our website at www.norwestchc.org.
Feel Better, Live Longer, Be Happier