The holiday season can be a stressful one for most people. There is so much to do, so many people to contact, parties to attend... which can leave a person feeling overwhelmed, stressed out,, anxious, angry, or depressed. This can also be a tough time for anyone who has experienced a major life transition or the loss of a loved one.
People who experience depression, anxiety and stress over the holidays may think that they should just get over it on their own. Others may need time to recognize how deeply this affects their life. If your holiday depression, anxiety or stress seems severe or is interfering with your job or home life, talk to your doctor, your therapist, or a trusted confidante. If you'd like some counseling, it might be a good idea to check your health plan before the end of the year so you can use sessions before they expire (many plans run Jan-Dec).
With the help of the Canadian Mental Health Association, here's a list (I've checked it twice) with some of the most common holiday triggers and tips to prevent unnecessary emotional distress.
The holidays can be expensive! Whether you're buying gifts, eating out, or traveling, you may get in the habit of reaching for your wallet and overextending yourself.
- Plan your budget in advance of the holiday season.
- Only spend cash or debit.
- Host a Secret Santa, or buy one gift for your group of friends or family.
So you don't get along with your family. They may use guilt trips or push your buttons (ahem... Uncle Frank) but you may feel obligated to spend time with them.
- Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
- Set boundaries with your family and communicate them.
- Stay one night at your family's house, not a whole weekend. Choose one family to visit each holiday instead of trying to see and please everyone.
- Visiting friends? Stay for a couple hours instead of the whole day.
During the winter months, our activity levels drop off and there's many opportunities to eat amazing holiday treats and booze it up, which can cause feelings of guilt or shame.
- When planning your holiday schedule, include chances for exercise and activity.
- Consider laying off the sauce. Before a social event, plan in advance what and how much you'll drink.
- Be gentle with yourself and understand that your goal is to limit consumption or inactivity, not eliminate it entirely.
Taking on too much
Maybe you over-committed or have unrealistic expectations during the holidays.
- Pace yourself. The holidays can be a 6 week marathon, so try not to take on more responsibilities than you can handle.
- Cut out the things that aren't truly important.
- Make a list and prioritize the important activities.
- Decide on your limits and stick to them.
- Let others share responsibility for holiday tasks.
Loneliness & Isolation
Loneliness and isolation can really suck for some folks during the holidays. This is especially true for people who recently lost a loved one, or are newly single.
- Pick up a winter hobby, or join a group. This will give you planned interactions.
- Volunteer with a local non-profit. It is humbling and rewarding and you may just make some new friends.
- Keep on the lookout for fun holiday activities happening in your community.
- If you know that you have a tough time during this season, tell people to check up on you.
The holidays can be a tough reminder of the loss of a loved one or former relationship.
- Acknowledge that this holiday season won't be the same.
- This is an opportunity to create new traditions as a way to honor a loved one. Do things differently as a way to avoid some of the more difficult holiday reminders.
- Spend time with supportive and caring people who understand what you are experiencing.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in the season. The symptoms include irritability, trouble concentrating, insomnia, aches and pains, depression, overeating, lethargy, and decreased interest in activities.
Treatment for SAD may include light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy, and medication.
- Speak with a mental health professional about treatment options in your community.
As the year comes to a close, many of us reflect on what has changed or stayed the same. Take stock of things that are clicking along in a good way, or the things you've accomplished this year. When we only look at our mistakes or things we're lacking we forget to be grateful for what we do have.
- Give yourself credit.
- Look to the future with optimism.
- Don't set New Year's resolutions as they put unnecessary pressure on you. If you'd like to make a resolution to change something, start today!