The holiday season is just around the corner. But are you prepared? Knowing how to take care of your mental health around the holidays should be a priority but is often overlooked by many. You may already feel the pressure to start planning the who, when, where, and what to eat for two major back-to-back holidays. It’s no wonder people report November and December are two of the most stressful months. Statistics from various studies show the most common emotions people feel during the holiday season are fatigue, stress, sadness, and irritability.
Studies also show women feel more stressed than men, and their stress triggers include pressure to give gifts, financial strain, time constraints, and weight gain. For some, health is still a concern, even though COVID-19 appears to be a minor issue today.
One survey to learn common stressors associated with the holidays found that 75% of respondents have concerns, with 19% worried about a loved one’s mental health and 26% worried about their mental health. It’s apparent the holiday blues are real, so taking care of your mental health around the holidays must be a priority.
Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health Around the Holidays
Below are tips to help you cope with holiday stressors and reduce mental health symptoms.
1. Be Honest with Yourself and Others
During the holidays, it’s natural to want to make everyone happy, even if it means pushing yourself to the limits. You want to accept all invitations, buy gifts for everyone you know, meet work deadlines, spend time with family, and taste every delicious treat you encounter. When you do this, however, your mental health can suffer.
Be honest about when you’ve reached your limits, and avoid pushing yourself too far. Also, it’s okay to be honest with friends, family, and coworkers about your mental health and why you must set boundaries.
2. Make a Realistic Budget
Spending money seems to go hand in hand with the holidays, especially with the intense marketing campaigns created to get you to spend, spend, spend. You may not realize the pressure from commercials, social media ads, and stores trying to make you spend your hard-earned money.
You can avoid spending pressure by deciding where your money goes long before you spend it. Creating a budget means telling your money what to do instead of the other way around. A budget involves listing every monthly expense. Assign any leftover funds to a separate category, such as entertainment, holidays, gifts, unexpected repairs, etc. It is crucial not to exceed your budget in any area.
3. Focus on What You Can Control
The holidays can make you feel anxious, depressed, or both when you start to think about travel, money, gifts, food, spending time with family, etc. Many things you worry about are out of your control, so spending time thinking about them is a waste of time. Instead, focus on the things within your control: your thoughts and actions.
If seeing social media posts of friends who seem to have it all together is getting you down, log out of social media until after the holidays. If you worry about eating too much at parties, eat a healthy meal before you go to curb your appetite and avoid impulse eating.
To help you stay focused, make a list of everything causing stress. Erase the ones that are out of your control. This should immediately relieve some stress, allowing you to focus on what you can control.
4. Continue Healthy Routines
For some, the holiday season means throwing out all the good habits they’ve developed the other ten months out of the year. Doing so is not good for your mental health, however. Your body likes routine. It depends on your circadian rhythms or your body’s internal clock. When out of sync, it can negatively impact your metabolism, gastrointestinal functioning, and mental health.
5. Avoid Alcohol and Drugs
Alcohol and drug use alters the brain’s functions, including the neurotransmitters associated with mental health. Substances trick the brain into producing higher amounts of serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, and norepinephrine. Temporarily this boost feels good, but within hours, the levels drop, and you experience an increase in depression, anxiety, and other mental health symptoms. You can avoid these emotional ups and downs by avoiding alcohol and other substances.
6. Skip the Drama
You must understand it is okay to avoid drama-filled situations. You are not required to attend family fights, pressure-filled parties, or any other gathering that makes you feel uncomfortable. It is okay to say “no.” It’s also okay to attend an event and leave whenever you are ready.
7. Take Care of You
Practice self-care to improve mental and physical health, not just during the holidays but throughout the year. Taking care of yourself improves overall well-being and helps you be a better employee, friend, student, and family member.
Examples of self-care include:
- Getting a massage
- Seeking medical treatment for physical aches and pains
- Making spiritual connections
- Learning new skills and hobbies
- Getting quality sleep
Seeking help from a mental health professional is another way to take care of yourself.
8. Ask for Help
It’s important to make sure the symptoms you experience are related to the holidays and not something more permanent. The holiday blues typically fade once the holiday season ends. If your symptoms were present before the holidays or stayed with you after, you may have a diagnosable mental health disorder.
Working with a licensed mental health therapist is recommended, whether it is to help you manage emotions during the holidays or to overcome anxiety, depression, or other disorders. Using a combination of behavioral therapies, medications, peer support, and family therapies, you will receive the tools you need to take care of your mental health around the holidays and every other day of the year.
If specific treatments have been ineffective, your psychiatrist can introduce you to new, advanced treatments, like ketamine-assisted therapy. Together, you can develop a treatment plan that works.
Start Now, Before the Holidays
Don’t wait until the holidays arrive to reach out for help. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to eliminate stressors. Contact the Mental Health Center today. We can help.