To some, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. But for others, especially those that suffer from mental illnesses, this festive time can make daily life even harder for a variety of reasons. Busy schedules, excessive spending, and stressful family interactions take their toll.
We outline a few common reasons that the season may be stressful below and provide ways to take care of your mental health while still enjoying all the holiday months have to offer.
“There’ll be parties for hosting, Marshmallows for toasting, And caroling out in the snow…” With gifts to buy, parties to attend and host, wrapping to complete, cookies to bake, and even more seasonal activities to get done in only a few short months, your holiday to-do list can appear endless.
While you may enjoy taking part in all of the activities that come with the holiday season, the constant running around can tire you out, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and stressed, and burned out before even getting to the new year. Don’t be afraid to say “no,” when invited to a event or obligation. Take time for yourself to unwind and practice mindfulness.
Breaking the Bank
Holidays can be expensive. You may feel obligated to buy gifts for your family, friends, coworkers, and even neighbors. It is the season for giving and some gifts on your relatives’ wish lists can be expensive. This can leave you feeling stressed out about your financial situation and guilty when you can not afford the gift that your loved one desperately wants and deserves.
If your solution is to charge everything on a credit card and deal with it after the holiday season is over, this can create a burden of debt that is hard to resolve. Try setting a budget for holiday spending and stick to it. You can gift thoughtful, homemade presents that are more budget-friendly, yet will still be a hit with the receiver such as baking their favorite Christmas cookie recipe or cross-stitching an ornament. They will appreciate the thought that was put into the gift and you can make it personalized to their taste. Plus, it will be one-of-a-kind!
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that emerges during certain times of the year. About 4-6% of the population suffers from SAD and most encounter symptoms beginning in the fall. The lack of light, cold weather, and short days during the fall and winter months are believed to contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Those who suffer from SAD may feel alone during this time, as many of their peers are cheery and bright during the holiday season, yet they are suffering with symptoms of depression. It’s important to never lose hope. Try opening your drapes and letting natural sunlight enter your home when possible, working out, eating less sugar, and practicing winter hobbies that you’re passionate about.
Too Much Family Time
Not everyone has a healthy relationship with their family, and even if they do, spending a lengthy period of time with many people can be exhausting. The holidays can bring up unresolved issues and tensions, in addition to arguments if two or more family members’ beliefs don’t align.
If your family is detrimental to your mental health, decline the invitation to your holiday dinner. You don’t have to subject yourself to unhealthy relationships just to take part in the “togetherness” of the season. However, if your family is not abusive or truly unpleasant to be around, attend, but feel free to step outside or into a different room if you feel tensions growing. “Take the high road,” as they say, if you anticipate an argument brewing and agree to disagree.
A large part of the holiday season is coming together with family and friends, but when one does not have loved ones with which to spend the holidays – whether none live close to their home, their relatives have passed away, or they are estranged from their family – the holidays can prove to be a difficult time. When friends on social media are posting pictures of their family gathered together or you see families laughing and celebrating in Christmas movies, it can evoke strong feelings of loneliness.
If you are far from family, try connecting with them via video chats or plan a time to see them after the holidays that you can look forward to. If you are estranged from family, talk to friends, coworkers, or neighbors that might also be spending the holidays alone and organize a get-together. You can also look into volunteer opportunities to not spend your day alone, and you’ll be giving back to your community and meeting new people as well.
Coping with Holiday Stress
The holidays can come with high expectations on what the season should look or feel like. Keep expectations realistic and remember to focus on your mental health in this busy season. If the stress and anxiety affects your daily life, talk to a doctor and get the help you need.
At the Lehigh Center for Clinical Research, we offer clinical trial opportunities that may give you access to free study medications, free medical examinations, free procedures and monetary stipends to help compensate for time and travel to our facility. Learn more about ongoing clinical trials.