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The Holidays and Mental Health

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  • Written By: Linda Scott, Vice President, Child & Family Solutions
The Holidays and Mental Health

The holiday season is supposed to be synonymous with joy and merriment…a time to laugh, celebrate and be grateful. But the holidays can also be stressful, particularly while navigating the current COVID-19 pandemic.

For many, shopping for the perfect gift, getting together with family, and rehashing memories at the dinner table is something to look forward to. But holiday preparations and the events that make up the celebration can be overwhelming, elevating the feelings of stress and anxiety.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), many people experience varying levels of anxiety or depression during the holiday season, especially those who already have a pre-existing mental health condition.

The holidays can be full of high expectations. In many cases, we put them on ourselves. Whether it’s meal preparation, picking the right gift or just over thinking the details, it’s easy to get caught up in the events of the season. In order to manage stress and keep feelings of anxiety and depression at bay, consider these practical tips:

  • Don’t overspend. Plan ahead and set a budget for your holiday gift giving. Stick to your budget and be responsible. Consider only spending cash or giving a homemade present this year.
  • Don’t over think it. Take people at face value. Try to manage your expectations of people who might have a negative effect on you. Limit your time with them, and if possible, surround yourself with people who make you happy.
  • Set realistic goals. Don’t try to get everything done in one day. Make a list and try to check off two to three items every day. Delegate tasks when appropriate. It’s perfectly okay to task others with sharing some of the holiday responsibilities.
  • Tuck in early. A good night’s sleep is incredibly important to your physical and mental health. In fact, it’s just as important as eating healthy and exercising.
  • Don’t overindulge. There are countless opportunities to overindulge in rich food and alcoholic beverages during the holiday season. Overindulging can lead to feelings of guilt or shame, deflating your self-esteem. Enjoy your holiday season by practicing moderation.
  • Practice Self Care and Stay active. When you plan your holiday schedule, allow time for yourself and take advantage of opportunities to be active.
  • Volunteer. Combat loneliness and isolation this winter by volunteering with a local nonprofit.
  • Ask for help. If you know that you typically have a tough time during the holidays, ask friends and family members to check in on you from time to time. If you feel the need for more formal support, talking with a mental health professional can help. Talking about your struggles tends to put them in perspective.
  • Make a mental health crisis plan For those who have a mental health condition, be sure to continue your therapy sessions. Don’t skip one just because things are busy. And if you’re taking prescription medications, beware of the side effects of mixing your medications with alcohol.

And finally, if you’re concerned about getting together with family and friends for the holidays because of the pandemic, do the following:

  • Talk about it early. It may seem difficult to talk about safety with family and friends, so start by acknowledging that it may be an awkward conversation.
  • Accept that some people you normally celebrate with may choose to opt out of the holiday get together. Don’t be offended. Many people feel vulnerable to Covid 19, or may be concerned that they could pose a risk to others. Just accept their decision.
  • Get tested. COVID-19 testing is readily available and home test kits offer a convenient solution for everyone.
  • Celebrate outside. We live in Arizona, so outdoor celebrations can be a great option for celebrating while maintaining a safe social distance.

Linda Scott is Vice President of Child & Family Solutions for Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS). For more information about JFCS programs and services, visit