For many people, the holiday season and the start of a new year can be a time of happiness and joy. However, it can also be a source of stress, anxiety, depression, or grief for others. We wanted to take a minute to acknowledge and discuss some ways to manage mental health during this time.
The Holiday Season for Those with Mental Illness:
Although the holidays can be a source of stress for anyone, they can pose significant challenges for those who are already struggling with mental health conditions.
For instance, for individuals with clinical depression or major depressive disorder, seeing everyone around them happy and engaging in activities can leave them feeling more depressed and isolated on top of what they are already struggling with. For those with social anxiety disorder, attending to holiday gatherings can be extremely challenging. They too can easily find themselves isolated when everyone around them seems to be enjoying such activities. Post-traumatic stress disorder is another condition in which symptoms can be triggered around the holiday season, particularly if trauma occurred then. Individuals with generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, or panic disorders may feel an increased sense of anxiety and pressure around the holiday season to get things done or make others happy. These are only a few examples, but they go to show how those struggling with their mental health may be increasingly uncomfortable during the holiday season.
It is important to note that it is not as simple as being able to “turn it off” or “just enjoy the moment” as some people may tell them. With mental health conditions, individuals have to live and cope with their condition on a daily basis, and it is not necessarily easy to gain control of it.
Regardless of mental health struggles, the holidays can bring sadness to peo-ple by not being with someone they used to spend them with, lost traditions, etc. This can feel depressing and isolating for many.
Further, although spending time with family and friends seems like it should be enjoyable, that is not necessarily the case for everyone. For those who may not have a family or are distanced from their family, the holidays can be pretty hard, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic making travel more difficult.
Then, of course, comes the expected stress and anxiety that anyone can experience around this busy time of year.
How to Support Each Other:
Chances are, you know someone who might be struggling with one or more of the above. Supporting each other can feel overwhelming, especially when you may be struggling with your own issues. Here are a few ways you might be able to help:
● Take time to listen: Sometimes, even taking just 10 minutes of the day to listen to someone who is struggling can make all the difference.
● Don’t judge: If you notice someone who feels particularly down or more stressed than usual, refrain from judgement and instead, ask how you might be able to help.
● Give them space: While some people may want company during hard times, others may need space or want to be alone. Try not to force people to do holiday activities or push them if they are not feeling up for it. They may just need time to breathe and re-group.
● Do something nice for them: Sometimes a simple act of kindness like sending a card or another small gesture can help someone going through a rough time realize that they are not alone.
● Reach out: Check in on those you love and care about. Sometimes it is easy to assume that if someone doesn’t reach out, that they don’t want to be bothered. However, they may just be waiting for someone to reach out to them first.
These are a few of the very simple ways we can support those around us who may be having a hard time this holiday season.
For those who may be struggling themselves, know that you are not alone:
Don’t be afraid to reach out for support. It is okay to take the time to slow down, take a break, and ask for help.
● Do whatever feels right for you. Be sure to make time for self-care.
● Know that your feelings are valid. There is no right or wrong way to feel during the holiday season and the new year.
● Don’t feel pressured to rush into New Year’s resolutions. Instead of setting resolutions, try to set small intentions. This helps lessen the pressure of needing to achieve everything all at once.
● If you are in need of additional support, you can always be connected to a Crisis Counselor at Crisis Text Line by texting “home” to 741741.
From all of us at Suburban Research Associates, we wish everyone a safe and healthy holiday season and a happy new year!