For many, the holidays are the happiest time of the year as they find themselves surrounded by friends, family, merry music, parties, and sweet treats. For many others, the holidays are a lonely time filled with cold days, memories of those lost, and unaccomplished hopes and dreams. If you are among the millions of people who feel an increase in stress, anxiety, and depression around the holidays, consider our advice below to remain grounded and grateful during the holidays, no matter what circumstances you face.
- Be Honest with Yourself. 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse. Regardless of whether you live with a diagnosed condition such as depression or anxiety, acknowledge your feelings, especially if they are starting to impact your ability to participate in daily responsibilities such as work and self-care. Accepting how you feel is the first step toward finding ways to change it.
- Temper Your Expectations. If you desire a picture-perfect holiday in which everyone is happy, every event runs perfectly, and everyone gets what they want, you’ll be disappointed. Accept that a plane will be delayed, a soufflé will crumble, and someone will ask you an impertinent question about your life plans. Try not to obsess over what goes wrong. Take the bad with the good and carry on.
- Schedule Me-Time. Rather than rushing into the holidays and then rushing out of them like you’re riding on a one-horsed open sleigh, give yourself time to prepare, be present, and reflect. Schedule a day or two after the holiday hustle in which you don’t have any commitments and can emotionally detox. Rest at home, indulge in your favorite activity, meditate, or get some exercise. By giving yourself time and space to sit with any painful emotions the holidays conjure, you’ll avoid bottling up feelings that can cause an internal (or external) explosion.
- Find Ways to Connect with Others. One of the most significant factors leading to sadness and depression around the holidays is feelings of isolation. Even if you are not connected to your family, or can’t be with them in person this year, find ways to engage those around you. Many non-profit organizations need extra hands and hearts around the holidays. Volunteer with a local group and help bring warm meals, supplies, or joy to those in need.
- Stick to Your Routine. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, meals, and meditation and relaxation will help you ward off feelings of depression or anxiety. No matter how busy or cold it gets, avoid staying in on the couch. Make sure you continue to maintain your mind-boosting healthy habits.
- Talk to a Professional. If the holidays cause extreme depression, sadness, or anxiety that results in a desire to self-harm or feelings of suicidal ideation, don’t wait—get help from a professional. If you’re unsure where to begin, talk to a friend, family member, neighbor, or colleague who can help you find a treatment center or doctor nearby to help you start the healing process. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-8255. For non-emergencies, you can also call the patient support specialists at Horizon at (716) 831-1800.