While the holiday season should be merry and bright, it can often bring stress with it.
From cooking meals, shopping and entertaining to missing loved ones that are no longer here, it can be hard to manage stress, and even depression, during this time of the year. These feelings are unwelcomed guests that can weigh on our mental health.
“The unrealistic expectations of needing to find the best possible gift or host the perfect holiday party can lead to financial pressures and personal demands that increase anxiety,” Balaji Saravanan, MD, psychiatrist and medical director of behavioral health in our Lorain market, explains. “Depression can also influence those who have lost a family member, gone through a breakup or are unable to be with their loved ones during this time of year.”
It is important to remember that there are many ways to cope and manage your mental health – and you are not alone in feeling this way.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that more than half of individuals living with a mental illness felt their condition worsened because of the holidays. However, with the support of others and utilizing methods that benefit your mental health, the holidays can go back to being one of the most wonderful times of the year.
First, try to keep in mind what matters most this holiday season.
While hosting the perfect gathering may be top of mind, it can add stress. Asking friends and family for help with cooking, cleaning or shopping is a great way to ease the burden of hosting a party or family gathering. It breaks up the work, lightens your load and, hopefully, gives you the chance to enjoy your event.
As for gifts, sticking to a budget is a great way to plan and prevent stress.
Decide how much money you are willing and able to spend and stick to it. By using a holiday spending plan, you can still get something nice for your loved ones while being realistic to your budget. You could also gift something homemade or even consider starting a gift exchange with family members to lessen the strain on your wallet.
And if you’re missing a loved one who has passed, there are ways you can honor their memory and keep them close to your heart throughout the holidays.
You can light a candle in their memory, create a memorial, continue to uphold the traditions you once did together or simply take time to share special memories of your loved one. Experiencing grief is never easy, especially during times where there are many events that remind you of your loved one. If you’re experiencing grief this season, remember that it is completely normal and everyone experiences grief in different ways.
While it’s important to care for others this holiday season, self-care is just as important.
This can be as simple as setting aside time each day to practice breathing, meditation or relaxation techniques to help clear your mind.
“Keeping up your routines with eating, exercise and sleep are also important to keep in mind this holiday season,” Dr. Saravanan adds. “By sticking with a schedule, it can keep your mind healthy and organized throughout each day.”
He adds, “reaching out to your loved ones during the holiday season is one of the most beneficial things to do when struggling with mental health. Speaking with a friend or family member that supports you, or even a therapist, can help you cope with any negative feelings you may be having.”
If your mental health is severely interfering with your ability to enjoy the season, or if you continue to feel anxious and depressed after the holidays, it might be time to speak to your primary care provider about treatment options.
Also, you can connect with mental health counselors across the country by using a 988 dialing code, the new three-digit suicide and crisis lifeline, to call, text or chat. Like 911 operators assist with medical, safety or fire emergencies, the 988 lifeline service providers will help people experiencing mental distress. These calls offer free and confidential support to those in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.