The holiday season is often portrayed as a time of joy, warmth, and togetherness. However, for many individuals, especially those struggling with mental health issues, this time of year can cause added stress, anxiety, sadness, or a sense of isolation. It's essential to acknowledge the emotional complexities that may arise during this time and take proactive steps to prioritize your mental well-being.
The Holiday Mental Health Challenge: Unwrapping the Reality
Research shows that the holiday season can exacerbate mental health conditions for various reasons. Whether it's the pressure to meet societal expectations, financial strains, or the amplified emphasis on family and social connections, these factors can contribute to heightened stress levels. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an estimated 64% of individuals with mental illness report that holidays make their conditions worse.
As we approach this festive time, it’s crucial to prioritize your mental health. Here are six therapist-backed strategies to help you navigate the holiday season with greater ease:
1. Set Realistic Expectations
Take account of your usual stressors and triggers around the holidays. Prepare yourself for the reality of those discomforts so that you can be prepared when they arise. Acknowledge that perfection is not attainable, and it's okay not to have a flawless holiday experience. Setting realistic expectations for yourself and others can alleviate unnecessary stress.
2. Establish Boundaries
If you tend to clash with a certain family member or struggle with binge drinking at social gatherings, set boundaries for yourself ahead of time and prepare strategies for maintaining those boundaries. Practice saying no to commitments that may overwhelm you. It's essential to prioritize self-care and recognize your limits, ensuring you don't spread yourself too thin. Also, make sure to establish an exit strategy to get out of a high-risk situation.
3. Create a Support System
Nobody is meant to handle everything alone. Reach out to friends, family, or a mental health professional for extra support. Identify a “safe person” you can go to when you need help in tough moments. Share your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust or consider attending support groups to connect with others facing similar challenges.
4. Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques
Incorporate mindfulness exercises and relaxation techniques into your daily routine. This can include meditation, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or yoga, which can help reduce stress and promote a sense of calm. Make sure you allocate some time and space during the holidays to quiet your nervous system and focus on the messages your body is sending you.
5. Maintain Healthy Habits
It’s easy to get carried away with the holiday festivities and stay up too late or eat too much. Do your best to stick to a regular sleep schedule, eat balanced meals, and engage in regular physical activity. These basic habits keep your brain and nervous system functioning healthily, and can significantly impact your mood and overall mental well-being.
6. Plan Activities That Bring You Joy
Identify activities that genuinely bring you happiness and make time for them. Whether it's a hobby, a favorite movie, a fun game, or spending time in nature, prioritizing activities that bring joy can be a powerful tool in managing stress. In moments where holiday obligations cause feelings of helplessness, prioritizing activities that bring you happiness can help you maintain a sense of control, autonomy, and balance.
Your Path to Personalized Mental Wellness with Professional Psychiatric Services
At Professional Psychiatric Services, we understand that everyone's journey to mental wellness is unique. Our compassionate team of therapists and providers is here to support you in creating a personalized plan tailored to your specific needs. By working together, we can navigate the challenges of the holiday season and ensure you have the tools to maintain your mental health.
Don't let the holidays become a source of distress. Take the first step towards a healthier, more balanced life by reaching out to Professional Psychiatric Services today. Contact us to schedule an appointment and embark on your journey to a more resilient and joyful you.