While the holidays can be a beautiful time, they can also be stressful and overwhelming. Whether the cause is family dynamics, the pressure to create the perfect day for your family or an empty seat at the table, the holidays can take their toll on your mental well-being.
According to a poll by National Alliance on Mental Illness, holiday stress affects 64 percent of us, with 24 percent saying the holidays affect them a lot. We can take steps to avoid holiday stress:
- Have realistic expectations. While your celebration may have picturesque moments, chances are some things won’t go according to plan. And that’s OK. Sometimes, the missteps can create the most memorable (and the funniest) holiday stories.
- Take time for yourself. Make sure you get enough rest, eat healthy and stay hydrated. If you feel holiday obligations getting the best of you, take a breather. You may find that spending even 15 minutes taking a walk, reading a book or enjoying a warm shower can help restore your inner calm.
- Acknowledge your feelings. If you have faced a loss in the last year or you are unable to be with loved ones during the holidays, it is normal to experience grief and sadness. It’s OK to cry or express your feelings to a trusted confidante or helping professional.
- Remember what’s important. The barrage of holiday cheer on TV and at the store can make it easy to get bogged down by everything you “must” do to have the perfect holiday. If you find your gift list is longer than your budget, or you don’t have time to cook dinner after baking all the Christmas cookies, scale back and remind yourself what’s important – your loved ones and the time you spend together – not the gifts, parties or food.
- Seek professional help if you need it. The holiday blues can cause fatigue, anxiety, irritability and/or depression. These feelings should not be debilitating, though, and they should not last. If these feelings become persistent or overwhelming, call your doctor or mental healthcare provider. You can also call the Ozark Center crisis line at 417.347.7720 (in Joplin) or 800.247.0661 (outside Joplin) anytime day or night to talk to trained mental health professional, free of charge.
About the Author
Ann Leach, QMHP, is a therapist specializing in grief and loss. She has served Ozark Center clients for over one year. Prior to that, Leach served as a substance abuse counselor for a teen recovery program and facilitated a depression support group for those living with cancer and other chronic illnesses.