It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or is it? For some, holiday revelry can heighten feelings of anxiety, depression, fatigue, tension, or loneliness. These feelings are temporary, but it’s important to take them seriously so they don’t lead to long-term mental health conditions.
Some experts say ‘tis the season is full of demands on your time and energy with shopping, baking, wrapping, houseguests and parties. The additional stress, unrealistic expectations, and sentimental memories can contribute to feeling blue. Winter weather with less sunlight and reduced outdoor activities can dampen moods. We also tend to eat and drink more, which can contribute to less-than-chipper feelings.
All of those stressors can add up to holiday blues, which are more common than you may think. According to NAMI, 64% of people surveyed said they were affected by the holiday blues. If you find yourself struggling, remember these 10 tips to ease the season:
1. Manage expectations.
Be realistic about how much you can do. Try not to overschedule your days and nights. Use a to-do list and stick to your budget. Remember to find enjoyment in small moments rather than expecting magical results.
2. Set limits.
Overeating and over-imbibing are par for the season. Reduce alcohol consumption by replacing that second drink with a glass of water. Save half your dessert for the next day or wait 30 minutes before having a second helping – you might realize you’re fuller than you thought.
3. Game plan stressful gatherings.
If you think family events may trigger negative emotions, figure out ways to cope ahead of time. Is there a relative you can count on for levity? A room where you can escape to regroup? Plan an exit strategy if you need to leave early.
4. Take a break.
Indulge in something you enjoy that has nothing to do with the holidays. Maybe it’s a hobby or a couple of hours at your local movie theater. Getting away from it all can help recharge your emotional batteries.
5. Get moving.
It might be the very last thing you want to do, and the very best thing for you. Exercise releases endorphins – the feel good chemicals in the brain. Drag yourself to the gym, brave the cold for a quick walk or just pop in that exercise DVD. Movement, no matter the type, is sure to reduce the holiday blues.
6. Don’t skimp on sleep.
Strive for seven to nine hours of sleep a night. You’ll have more energy and a better mindset to face each day.
7. Respect differences.
Friends and family members share varying opinions on many different subjects. Focus on similarities while letting go of differences. If you’re able, learn to forgive and forget.
8. Practice self-care.
Keep up with, or increase the frequency of therapy appointments or support group meetings. Find ways to relax such as listening to music.
9. Say thanks.
Start or end each day by jotting down three things you’re grateful for. Practicing gratitude leads to more positive feelings.
10. Know when to say when.
If your emotions become unmanageable, don’t wait to seek help until after the holidays. Reach out right away for professional assistance.
Even under the best circumstances, hectic holidays can leave you feeling physically and emotionally drained. Remember that many people struggle through the season – even if they don’t show it publicly. And if you’re on social media, resist the natural urge to compare your holiday experience with what you see on the screen. Those posts are only a highlight reel. In reality, no holiday is perfect.
If you are struggling this holiday season, connect with a CHI Health Mental Health Provider. We offer in-person and virtual therapy sessions with our team of licensed mental health therapists.