Joy is synonymous with the holiday season, but so is stress and anxiety. The lead-up to Dec. 25 can present challenges like distance from loved ones and the financial stress associated with shopping and gift-giving.
When Christmas music plays and festivities ramp up, so can feelings of loneliness and isolation for many people. Strained relationships, childhood traumas and the loss of loved ones can all contribute to holiday depression and “the holiday blues.” This can be a temporary state of depression that occurs strictly around the holidays, stemming from seasonal triggers.
Treat these feelings seriously. It’s just as important to address short-term mental health problems as it is to treat sustained mental health conditions, as they can lead to a clinical diagnosis of anxiety or depression.
Make a plan
Try being preemptive this holiday season. Structure your time and plan activities that you do enjoy, rather than just avoiding those you don’t. Some options include volunteer activities and planned exercise routines, preferably those that can get you out of the house and away from potentially triggering situations.
You can also try making a personalized strategy to manage symptoms. Here are a few tips:
- Avoid alcohol when depressed or stressed. It’s a depressant and can make bad feelings worse. People should also limit or avoid cannabis and any stimulant drugs during sad or depressed times.
- For parents, pay attention to the mood of children and teens during the holidays. They also can get the holiday blues.
- Identify individual triggers in the holiday season and set boundaries.
- Say no. If a certain holiday commitment at work, or with friends or family is causing stress, anxiety or otherwise triggering intrusive thoughts, bow out of the event.
- Take time off. If possible, take a vacation day from work to rest and engage in a self-care activity. The holidays can be full of social pressure. Building in time to recharge is important.
- Talk to a friend or family member about feelings and ask them to regularly check-in. Watching out for each other will make a difference.
- Work with a professional. Licensed therapists and psychiatrists can advise strategies and solutions that will help individuals chart a path through what can be a difficult, stressful time of year.
Sometimes, talking to a non-family member or friend with shared experiences is best. Here are some free resources to consider this holiday season.
Anxiety And Depression Association of America (ADAA) Online Peer-To-Peer Anxiety And Depression Support Group: ADAA’s online support group is anonymous. When you join, you can connect with individuals who are also dealing with anxiety and depression. Community members are encouraged to ask questions, contribute to ongoing conversations and post about their journey.
Mental Health America (MHA) on Inspire: MHA’s Inspire is a social network for health that connects patients and caregivers in a safe, permission-based manner. These communities provide a place for people to support and encourage each other online, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
Warmlines: A warmline is a peer-run listening line, staffed by people in mental health recovery themselves. This is a source of support that doesn’t require travel or enrollment in a specific program or support group. When you call in, you can be confident that the person you are speaking to has endured mental health struggles as well, and they will provide compassion and support. Learn more about warmlines at this link.
Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741 to connect with a volunteer crisis counselor.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24/7 toll-free lifeline for individuals experiencing emotional distress or crises. Call 988 or 1-800-273-8255 to talk to a trained listener.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network members offer a variety of behavioral health support services, including phone and online support, in-person support and more. Log into your member account and search for the best options for you. Members can also search this list of psychiatric urgent care, mobile crisis services and crisis stabilization facilities in Michigan by visiting this link.
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