Updated: Sep 13, 2022
A NAMI study showed that 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse. “For many people the holiday season is not always the most wonderful time of the year,” said NAMI medical director Ken Duckworth.
There are many thoughts or ideas about how families “should” function for the holidays: Families “should” love each other. Families “should” get along. Holidays “should” be fun. Children “should” be excited. In reality, the holidays can be a challenging time for many adults and adolescents. For many people, the holidays can be full of mixed emotions. Happy family memories are met with grief, and for many, depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses can easily be triggered during the holiday season.
Mental Health During the Holiday Season
The pressure to live up to society's expectations of a joy-filled celebration, or even our family’s expectations, can be a lot. The stress of it all, can make us feel like stretched rubber bands, and the results can be exacerbated mental illness symptoms. Here are some suggestions for how you can reduce stress and maintain good mental health during the holiday season:
Don’t avoid your emotions. Instead identify and validate them.
Be compassionate towards yourself. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend.
Remind yourself that emotions are temporary (even though they may feel like they could last forever).
Remember to kindly, yet firmly, set limits and boundaries.
Prioritize your mental and physical well-being. Recognize what your triggers are to help you prepare for stressful situations.
Gratitude has been shown to improve mental health. Write a gratitude list and offer thanks. Reflect back on what you are grateful for, then thank those who have supported you.
Exercise daily: Exercising naturally produces stress-relieving hormones in your body and improves your overall physical health.
Spend time in nature. Studies show that time in nature reduces stress.
Remember, the holiday season can be difficult for young people as well. Use last month’s feelings wheel or High’s and Low’s to do a regular check in. Also, as a parent/caregiver, you have to care for your mental health first, before being able to care for the mental health of a child. If you and/or your child are feeling overwhelmed, please be mindful of sharing this with me. I would like to help you identify specific events that trigger you and help you create an action plan to address this.