Holiday Mental Health – Some Thoughts on Managing the Situation

Holiday mental health can be difficult, as exemplified by this burning candle.

Oh, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it? Everyone is happy and festive and excited and making final arrangements for travel or gifts or… but is it really a wonderful time of year for everyone? The answer, of course, is no, and in fact this is the time of year that can often be the most difficult for people suffering from mental health challenges. Holiday mental health is a real thing, and the more aware we are of it, the better we will all be at dealing with it.

SoCal Empowered is an Orange County mental healthcare provider, and our team is fully aware of the fact that a lot of people out there not only do not look forward to the holidays, but that some even dread them. If this includes you, we hope you find your way through this season safely. If you’re worried about a loved one, you’re far from alone. Below are some ideas to keep in mind that may make things a bit easier for everyone’s holiday mental health.

Some Relevant Facts

We need to begin by clarifying that we are not necessarily talking about the “Holiday Blues” in a vacuum. This is a common condition that people experience that’s prompted by heightened stress and perceived expectations during this time of year. However, it’s also a temporary condition that usually settles itself down once the holiday season is over.

Our main concern with regards to holiday mental health is those who are already suffering from one condition or another. The “Holiday Blues” phenomenon affects the millions of people with mental health problems at the same rate as everyone else, but the risks presented by it can be far greater for those with underlying conditions.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, published a report that deals with holiday mental health, and the statistics are telling. Those statistics included:

  • 64 percent of people with mental illness see their conditions worsen during the holidays.
  • 24 percent of people with diagnosed mental illness say that their conditions get “a lot worse” during the holidays.
  • 40 percent of those with mental illness state that the holidays make their conditions “somewhat worse.”

As you can imagine, this quickly creates a serious situation for someone with depression, anxiety or just about any other mental illness. Holiday mental health can have an extremely harmful effect on those who are already suffering.

Managing Your Own Holiday Mental Health

If you’re worried about your own holiday mental health, there are a few things you can to do make it all a bit easier on yourself. See below:

  • Set your own expectations – One of the biggest stressors this time of year is people thinking they have to do certain things to please others who will judge them if they don’t perform. Don’t fall into that mindset, as it’s not worth all the stress involved. If there’s a judgmental person in your life, it’s most likely not just you that’s being judged.
  • Don’t destroy your routine – It’s very easy to tell yourself that you can miss that one meeting or that one workout to go pick up a gift, but it could also lead to a slippery slope. If you’re operating on a routine that works for your mental health, you need to protect it. Have that gift shipped if necessary or find a different time to go get it.
  • Protect your diet – Admittedly, this has been an insurmountable challenge for people during the holidays for hundreds of years, but your holiday mental health is going to depend on a healthy diet that’s consistent with the one you’re on. Don’t give in and grab that fast food while you’re out shopping – prepare your meals ahead of time if necessary.

Helping Loved Ones with Holiday Mental Health

It’s just as common that people will be worried about the holiday mental health of a loved one. If this includes you, perhaps you should consider the suggestions below:

  • Check in on them regularly – You don’t want to go overboard here, but a good way to let your loved one know that you’re available as a resource is to contact this person just to see how he or she is doing. Many people with mental health problems are not going to reach out and tell others about them, so that phone call/email/text may make a difference.
  • Listen for signs of stress – We all feel some level of stress during the holidays. You’ll know the signs of stress in your loved one when you hear them, so if you do, ask about it. Ask them if everything is alright, and even if they say yes, offer to help somehow.
  • Offer regular compliments – One of the more difficult things about working so hard to put together a lovely holiday season is that for too many, it’s all but thankless. This hits those with mental health challenges especially hard, so make sure your loved one receives compliments for all of his or her efforts.

How SoCal Empowered Can Help

The holiday season is complicated. It’s rewarding, worthwhile for most and even special for many. It’s also stressful, difficult and from a mental health standpoint, a slog for just about everyone. Holiday mental health is about a whole lot more than just the “Holiday Blues” that appear right about now – it’s about protecting those who are already dealing with significant challenges such that they don’t wind up in a deeper hole.

If you’re concerned not just about the holiday mental health, but the overall mental health of a loved one, you can always contact our team. We’re available to talk, but at first we’ll mostly listen. From there, we’ll help you map out a solution. We wish you the best for this time of year, and we’re here if you need us.