While the holiday season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of year, for many, it’s the most stressful and anything but wonderful. The pressures of the holiday season can make us feel like we’re drowning. Studies have shown that 62% of people have an elevated stress level during the holidays. 1 Furthermore, research shows that almost 2/3 of people with a mental illness say the holidays only worsen their conditions. 2 How can we lower stress and make the holidays more enjoyable? We will look at some common holiday pressures and what you can do to put your mental health first around the holidays.
Factors That Affect Mental Health Around the Holidays
For many of us, mentioning “holiday season” put a 500-pound brick on our shoulders. If the holidays get you completely stressed out, here are five reasons why:
Trying to Hold Up Appearances
The holiday season is one of joy and happiness, but it can become even more stressful when you’re not at that level of happiness and trying to hold up appearances.
Traveling with Mental Illness
While a trip to see family members should be enjoyable, traveling can worsen symptoms in people with existing mental illness. 3 It can spark mood changes, depression, and anxiety.
Financial Demands of the Season
Giving material gifts to friends and family can stress us out and strain our mental health around the holidays. Feeling pressured to buy gifts not within our budget can become overwhelming. If you are in this situation, remember that the season is not about material items. Focus on spending time with family and doing kind deeds instead.
Grief and Loss
Grief and loss can feel multiplied as we reminisce about family members no longer with us around the holidays. Also, if you feel lonely daily, the holiday season can amplify those emotions if you compare yourself to others and their holiday activities.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder happens when the lack of sunlight triggers chemical changes in the brain that can lead to depression. 4 Because the days are shorter and there is less sunlight in the winter, this can happen easily during the holiday season. Trying to get out in the sunlight as much as possible can help lower seasonal affective disorder’s impact.
How to Take Care of Your Mental Health Around the Holidays
Managing stress and prioritizing your mental health around the holidays should be a priority. Here are some tips to get you on the right path:
Maintain Healthy Habits
Maintaining healthy habits like eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep is one of the best ways to manage stress over the holidays. While this may mean saying no to some invitations, you’ll thank yourself in the long run.
Ask for Help to Put Your Mental Health First Around the Holidays
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, sad, or anxious, ask for help. Turn to family and friends or seek the help of a therapist to talk about what’s bothering you. Having a second set of hands or an ear you can turn to can help.
We’re not superheroes that can run 24/7. Be realistic about what you can accomplish and handle throughout the holidays. Writing things down can give you a clear picture of what must be done. From here, you can set priorities. The items at the top of the list will be more likely to get done than those at the bottom. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t get to everything.
Set a Budget
If finances are stressing you out, set a budget for the holiday season and stick to it. This will let you know what you can afford to spend. Remember, memories and spending time together last longer than any material item.
Take a Walk
While you may think you don’t have time to take a walk, doing so will give you energy and help you accomplish your other tasks. The sunlight can also help to battle seasonal affective disorder. Taking a walk can also help to decrease anxiety and improve sleep.
Seeking Help for Mental Health Issues at Healing Foundations
If you need help managing stress or dealing with mental health issues, Healing Foundations is here to help. Our team utilizes many treatments to help patients with various conditions. Call us today or reach out online to learn more.