Cooking for a dozen people, attending countless holiday parties, and pressure around finding the perfect gift all can make the holidays not-so-merry and bright.
We know we should take the time to savor our favorite things about the holidays — be it baking, decorating, or watching a holiday classic — but obligations intervene and can set us up for anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
Whether you live with a mental health condition or you’re experiencing a seasonal uptick in symptoms, Dr. Amy Carnall and Cristina Sertway, APN, PMHNP-BC, provide support, treatment, and practical tools to support your mental health this holiday season.
The holidays are “loaded” for many reasons. Perhaps your family did all they could to have the “perfect” Christmas, but the expectations didn’t match the reality. Or you may remember holidays as times when family members or friends drank too much and arguments ensued. Still, others associate the holidays with sensory overload, complete with flashing lights, being on the go constantly, and feeling uncomfortable in stiff, dressy clothes.
Fortunately, you can take care of yourself emotionally over the holidays. This is especially important if you’re living with a diagnosed mental illness. In fact, a study conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that 64% of respondents reported that the holidays exacerbate their conditions.
Here are eight ways to manage your mental health over the holidays.
Everyone’s holiday stressors are different. Before the season arrives, take a moment and decide for yourself what parts of the holidays you dread and ditch them.
You don’t have to attend your aunt’s yearly party or buy every relative, friend, or neighbor a gift and stare at a high credit card bill a month later. It’s gentler on yourself if you pick a few things you love and do them — whether that’s attending a musical performance or sharing a quiet dinner with a friend.
Utilize a mindfulness practice like meditation. Studies show that listing five things you're grateful for daily or focusing on just one can benefit your mental health.
You may have grown up expecting that every holiday should resemble a Hallmark movie. That is rarely true. Coming to terms with that can help you see the positive in holiday gatherings and feel better about them afterward.
Often, we concentrate on consensus to keep the peace during the holidays, but that can take a toll on your mental stability. There’s nothing wrong with prioritizing your mental health by setting limits.
Your mental and physical health are interconnected. Even though your routines are interrupted during the holidays, try to eat well, exercise daily, and rest. This goes a long way in helping you feel good mentally and physically.
Prioritize yourself by meditating, taking a yoga class, or enjoying a walk.
Holiday revelry and drinking or drug use go hand in hand in our society, but casual “partying” can turn harmful to our mental and physical health. You’ll feel better after the party if you opt for a bubbly water and juice spritzer instead of a mixed drink. And skip recreational drug use altogether.
Don’t sacrifice mental health support during the holidays. Your therapist can help you deal with stressors connected to this time of year.
Heeding these tips during the holidays can make the holidays easier.
Call our Cherry Hill, New Jersey, office at 856-428-1260 to schedule an appointment with us no matter the season, or book one online.