Maintaining Your Mental Health During the Holidays


For many, the holiday season is highly stressful and can lead to increased levels of anxiety and depression. This time of year is often busy, and the shuffling of work and personal obligations can feel very overwhelming. Purchasing gifts can be anxiety-inducing; trying to determine what to get, how much to spend, and how to find the money to buy those things can be crushing. Today, we will talk about different ways to prioritize your mental health during the holiday season.


Familial Stress

For some, the holidays are a time of good memories, traditions, and great comfort being around family. For others, the increased amount of time spent with family can be a stressor. If a person has a complicated history with certain family members or current events within the family make them feel uncomfortable, spending extra time with them can be very difficult. If these examples resonate with you, there are some things you can do to protect your mental health in these situations. First, remind yourself that you are in charge of your schedule. If the clamoring of all your different family members demanding your time and attention during the holidays is stressing you out, remind yourself that you have the power to plan your own holiday schedule. You can plan for a certain amount of time for each event and extend that time if you choose to. If family time is getting overwhelming and you feel that stress starting to grow, take a moment to step outside for a “phone call” and listen to a 5-minute meditation. Headspace and Calm are great apps for this type of mindfulness break. Don’t feel afraid to set boundaries. If you need a break, go for a coffee run to get away for a few moments, re-center yourself, and return to the party when you’re ready and can enjoy yourself more. If you feel yourself getting agitated with intense personalities, give yourself the freedom to walk away for a few minutes. This decreases your risk of saying or doing something impulsive in response to a difficult person/conversation.


Loneliness

Many people struggle with feeling lonely and isolated during the Holidays. Some people live far from their friends and family and feel especially sad and alone at this time of year. If you struggle with loneliness during the holiday season, try some of these methods to combat those feelings. Reach out to your loved ones! Video platforms such as Facetime, Zoom, and Skype help keep us connected even when we are far apart. If you have friends nearby who have become like family, you can set up a get-together with them for the holidays so that you have something to look forward to. Take this time as a special time for self-care. Gift yourself with a massage or a spa day. Take a weekend trip somewhere that you love. If you are someone who also struggles with Seasonal Affective Disorder, you may want to consider a vacation somewhere warm and sunny to break up the winter months. While these things may not get rid of that lonely feeling altogether, they do give you a chance to focus on something enjoyable that’s just for you. You can also try giving back to your community. During the holiday season, there are often many charities that give back to those in need. You can volunteer at a local soup kitchen or “adopt a family” to purchase gifts for or help sort toys donated to underprivileged children. Giving to others is a great way to remind yourself of all the things you are grateful for in your life, and studies show that giving to those less fortunate can help reduce stress.


Gift-Giving Stress

One thing that causes many people to feel stressed and overwhelmed during the holiday season is gift-giving. Did you know that a recent study showed that 45% of people admit to feeling pressure to spend more on holiday gift-giving than they are comfortable spending? So, if you are feeling stressed about the financial impact of holiday gift-giving, you are not alone! Here are some ways that you can give gifts without overspending and overstressing. You can pool resources with other families and purchase gifts in teams for the children. You can do a Secret Santa so that instead of buying gifts for everyone, each person buys a gift for one other person. You can start putting away money in advance, even $20 a month for a year, and shopping off-season can go a long way. You can give handmade gifts that you’ve made in advance. You can give coupon books for movie nights, ice cream dates, car washes, etc. Instead of a gift, you can make a small donation in their name to a charity that they support. Remind yourself why we give gifts in the first place. The giving of gifts is meant to express your care and affection to the recipient. It’s not about how much or how little you spend. It’s about showing that you care, so in the spirit of showing how much you care, maybe consider writing a letter expressing those feelings. Many people find that expression of caring and goodwill to be much more meaningful than a trinket or gift, and it doesn’t cost a dime.


Recovery During the Holidays

The holidays can be challenging for those who are in recovery from substance abuse. There are many situations during this season that can be triggering. Some of those triggers include things we’ve discussed above, such as familial difficulties, loneliness, and added stress. On top of those things, you also have holiday parties that often include drinking. To avoid a relapse during these events, there are some things that you can do to prepare yourself. First, you can preplan some responses if you are offered an alcoholic beverage, so you don’t get caught in a situation where you don’t know how to respond. You can also bring a friend or family member who supports your recovery to help be a buffer. Lean on your support system, increase the number of meetings you attend, and talk to your sponsor more. When you’re at an event, get a coke or sprite with cranberry juice, and most people will leave you alone and not try to press an alcoholic beverage on you. If at any time you start to feel overwhelmed or like your resolve is slipping, permit yourself to leave. Have an exit strategy in mind to give yourself an excuse to get out of that situation.



If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, or depressed this holiday season, you don’t have to deal with it alone! The holiday season is difficult for many of us, and it is perfectly okay to need additional support this time of year. If this is you, please reach out! Our therapists at Georgetown Counseling and Wellness are trained to help you overcome these debilitating feelings and learn how to cope in healthy ways. Contact us today for a free 10-minute consultation or set up an appointment with one of our therapists.


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