This week I want to deep dive into Mental Health Around The Holidays. We are going to chat statistics, facts and also some coping mechanisms. Everyone knows the holiday season brings welcomed guests; parents, children, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends and while that's all well & good... what some people don't realize is that the holiday season can also bring unwelcome guests like stress & depression. It's really no wonder when presented with an array of demands like cooking meals, shopping, cleaning, entertaining (just to name a few), and add in the pandemic and all the additional stress of worrying about you and your loved ones' health and we've really hit a peak.
Mental health is definitely something that you may need to continually tend to throughout your life and throughout the years. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, around 64% of people report the holiday season making their mental health conditions worse. One of the main reasons why people experience an increase in sadness or anxiety during the holiday season is directly associated with what is called "The Holiday Blues."
This can be described as an unrealistic expectation around the holidays and you should know some of the common feelings associated with it:
- Sense of loss
- Isolation or loneliness
Let's hit you with the stats, shall we?
Studies have shown an increase of up to 40% with depression and anxiety due to financial strain, loneliness, sense of pressure, remembering happier times & unable to be with loved ones. Many experts don’t feel we will return to baseline anytime soon due to COVID. SAD can start to kick in as well.
HOLIDAY BLUES VS. SAD
Did you also know that a feeling of sadness during the winter and holiday months can ALSO be a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Holiday depression and SAD can be difficult to distinguish from one another, but the duration and severity of your symptoms are usually your best clues:
- Duration: The holiday blues start around November or December and lift shortly after the new year ends. SAD, however, typically lasts about 40% of the year—starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer.
- Symptom severity: The symptoms of holiday depression are fairly mild. SAD, on the other hand, is often more severe and can be debilitating.
If the holiday season passes and you're still feeling depressed or anxious, you should talk to your doctor or a mental health professional to determine if what you are experiencing is a more significant mood disorder.
Here are some practical tips, you can use to minimize the stress that will accompany your holidays and who knows, you may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would. I know what you're thinking.... when stress is at it's all time high, it's incredibly hard to stop and rationalize and that's why we want to prevent stress and depression in the first place.
8 TIPS TO PREVENT HOLIDAY STRESS:
- FEEL YOUR FEELS: Understand that it is okay to be in your feelings. Often times around holidays the grief and sadness of a lost loved one start to become overwhelming. I want you to know, it's OK to feel your feelings. It's OK to take the time to cry. It's OK to feel that sadness and grief. Remember that forcing yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season isn't fooling anyone.
- ASK FOR HELP: If you are feeling isolated, lonely or sad, we highly encourage you to seek out help. Friends, family, religious or other social events, anything. Many have websites, chat groups, phone numbers, text options or even virtual events. They can offer you the support and companionship that everyone needs and deserves during the holidays.
- VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME: Volunteering your time or doing something that can help others is an amazing way to lift your spirits and also broaden your friendships. For example, consider volunteering at your local homeless shelter and serve meals, or help the Food-bank with their donation list.
- YOU CAN'T BUY HAPPINESS: Let's remember that you can't buy happiness and financial stress is one of the biggest leading causes of depression and stress in the holidays. Before you are going to start buying your gifts and do all your Christmas food shopping, be kind to yourself and your bank account and set a budget with your main goal being of sticking to it. No exceptions.
- ORGANIZE YOURSELF: Parties, gatherings and holiday events can be incredibly overwhelming and that's why we suggest you organize yourself by setting aside specific days for your Christmas shopping & Christmas baking. This will help you prevent any last minute scrambling and stress.
- SAYING NO IS A FORM OF SELF-CARE: Say that again out loud - 'Saying NO is a form of selfcare.' Learning to say 'no' is one of the best forms of self-care because saying 'yes' when you actually want to be saying 'no' can leave you feeling incredibly resentful and overwhelmed.
- STICK TO YOUR ROUTINE: Where possible, stick to your routine and healthy lifestyle. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Over-indulgence only adds to the cycle of stress and guilt. Some suggestions:
- Eat a health meal before you go out so you are full and don't overindulge.
- Get your full 8 hours of sleep.
- Stay on track with your workouts.
- Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation or yoga.
- DOWNLOAD THE NUNA APP: Saving the best for last (of course) and sharing with you that we at MARNIE & MICHAEL have officially partnered with NUNA. NUNA is your online friend that coaches and challenges your way of thinking, so you can be the best version of yourself. NUNA helps you track your daily mood and learn more about yourself. NUNA asks you how you’re doing in the brief daily conversations. By checking in with you every day, you’ll not only be able to find patterns in your mood and map out the things that make you feel good – and not so good. You’ll also get useful and relevant therapeutic tools that can help you function as good as you possibly can in the given situation you’re currently in. For 50% off their yearly subscription, click HERE.
TAKE YOUR CONTOL BACK
Don't let the holiday season become something that you dread. Together, we can all take the steps to prevent depression and stress together and truly enjoy the holiday season.