Holiday Mental Health: Your Mind Matters
Many people look forward to the holiday season, but let’s face it: This can be a stressful time of year. Take time for yourself and care for your mental health in the weeks ahead.
Dealing with stress and anxiety
The pressures of the season can increase our stress and anxiety levels. These are emotional responses that can have similar symptoms. External issues, such as problems at work, cause stress. On the other hand, anxiety brings ongoing feelings of worry that usually have no specific cause.
Both stress and anxiety can cause trouble sleeping, irritability and a lack of focus. Simple changes, like increased exercise, a healthy diet and good sleep habits, can help.
Here are some tips from the American Psychological Association:*
- If a project is causing stress, try to change the situation. Can you ask someone for help or scale back your plan?
- Reach out to others when you need to and give back when you can.
- Experts have found that meditation can help with stress and anxiety. Take five minutes to settle your nerves by sitting quietly and breathing deeply.
- Nature can have calming effects. If you can’t get outside, watching a video of a nature scene can boost your mood.
If your feelings of anxiety last for months and impact your daily life, you might have an anxiety disorder. These are common. The National Institute of Mental Health* reports 31 percent of Americans will face an anxiety disorder at some point. Talk to a mental health professional.
The Mayo Clinic* defines depression as a mood disorder that causes ongoing feelings of sadness. It can also cause a loss of interest in regular activities.
Here are some common symptoms of depression:
- Angry outbursts
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
- Feelings of anxiety or restlessness
- Difficulty concentrating
The pressures of the holiday season along with the shorter, colder days of winter might worsen feelings of depression. No matter the cause, help is available. Depression responds well to medication, therapy or a combination of the two.
It’s important to seek help for severe depression, which can result in self-harm or suicide. In 2019, 1.4 million people attempted suicide in the United States. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline* at 800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In an emergency, call 911.
Substance use disorder
Social pressures can make the holiday season a hard time of year for people facing substance use disorders. Substance use disorder is the repeated use of alcohol and/or drugs that has a serious impact on everyday life. People who become addicted to drugs and alcohol might continue to use them despite their negative effects.
The Mayo Clinic lists these common signs of addiction:
- Strong cravings
- A need to take increasing amounts to get the desired effect
- Failure to meet responsibilities in life and at work
- Spending money on the drug even if you can’t afford it
If you are dealing with a substance use disorder, there are many ways to find help. Talk to your doctor, family, friends or support groups. You can reduce your dependence on drugs and alcohol.
The holiday season can cause problems for our mental health. Keep track of how you’re feeling and take care of yourself during this busy time. If anxiety, depression or substance use disorders persist, talk to a medical professional.
*The American Psychological Association, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Mayo Clinic and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are independent organizations that offer health information you may find helpful.