While the holidays are typically a time of celebration, they can be very stressful for many people and impact mental health. The holidays can be especially tough for those already living with mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that 64% of people living with a mental illness felt that their conditions worsened during the holiday season.

How the holidays can impact mental health

The holiday season can be one of the busiest times of the year. There always seems to be somewhere to go, things to do, and events to attend. Yet, while the holidays are often a joyous time of year, they can also impact people’s mental health- often without them even realizing it.

Many factors can affect mental health during the holiday season, such as:

  • Spending the holidays alone or far away from your loved ones.

  • Pressure to find the perfect gifts or feeling like you need to make the holiday season “perfect” for your family.

  • Not being able to afford gifts.

  • Feeling as though you can’t live up to others’ expectations.

  • Missing a loved one who has passed away.

If you let the stress build-up, it can turn into a more serious issue. If you already live with a mental health condition, your symptoms may get worse if you’re under too much pressure.

Know the triggers and symptoms

One of the keys to managing mental health symptoms is identifying your stress and mental health triggers and recognizing the signs so you can either seek help or use tools you have learned to help you cope. Do public crowds or social situations trigger your anxiety? Are you often overwhelmed when surrounded by loud noises or bright lights? The holiday season involves a lot of triggers that one usually wouldn’t experience at any other time of year, so it’s helpful to be proactive and try to anticipate anything that may make you anxious or cause undue stress.

While it’s important to prioritize your own mental health around the holidays, it’s also good to know the signs that someone you care about may be having a hard time. Some symptoms to look out for in either yourself or a loved one are:

  • Withdrawal or isolation

  • Erratic or impulsive behavior

  • Sleep issues such as insomnia or fatigue

  • Frequent moodiness or irritability

  • Sudden changes of behavior

  • Sudden changes in eating habits

  • Feelings of unworthiness or hopelessness

  • An increase in anxiety or panic attacks

Managing mental health symptoms during the holidays

There are many ways you can manage your mental health during the holiday season. Set realistic expectations for yourself, and realize that it’s ok to say no to things you know will stress you out.

Try to keep up healthy habits such as a balanced diet, physical activity, and practicing mindfulness; don’t rely on alcohol or recreational drugs to help deal with stress and emotional pain.

Plan ahead as much as you can. Knowing what is coming next or setting aside time to complete certain tasks can be a huge anxiety relief.

Realize that it’s ok to feel sad during the holidays. Acknowledge how you feel and remind yourself that these feelings are valid. If you keep your emotions bottled up, it can be harmful in the long run.

Don’t be afraid to ask or reach out for help. If you feel alone, anxious, depressed, stressed, or lonely, reach out to family and friends and let them know. They might be able to take some stress off of your plate or lend a non-judgemental ear.

If you feel depressed or anxious for an extended time, it may be time to talk to a mental health professional. Serene Health offers a wide variety of behavioral health and mental health services. We also have appointments available seven days a week on our telehealth platform so that you can talk to a therapist online from the comfort of your home. Call us at 844-737-3638 or visit us at www.serenehealth.com to schedule an appointment.