It is that time of year again – holiday season! For many of us, we think of the holidays as a time to get together with friends and family, share laughs and memories and experience the perfect storm that is both chaos and relaxation. The season is kicked off with Thanksgiving and continues through New Year’s Eve, before settling down and back into a daily routine. The yearly holiday season is often the hardest time of the year for those struggling with their mental health and the term coined to describe the increase in stress and struggle is “holiday blues.”
The “holiday blues” bring increased feelings of inadequacy, financial strain, scheduling stress and general loneliness and the same “holiday blues” will also add intensity to pre-existing mental conditions and symptoms. Let’s make no mistake, the “holiday blues” can affect anyone, whether there is a history of mental health struggles or not. As relaxed and temporary as the “holiday blues” may sound, they are still something to be taken seriously. Short term mental health struggles are still struggles and need attention, just as if they were long term ongoing struggles.
All of that being said, I am not going to look past the fact that this holiday season will look much different this year, as many things have, due to Covid-19 still impacting our communities. It has financially hurt families and individuals, it has canceled important events, it has limited our ability to socialize and it continues to hurt us in numerous ways. Simply stated, Covid-19 will most likely make the “holiday blues” worse than in years past.
Many individuals in the community may have already been experiencing the financial stress of Christmas for months, the tinge of loneliness in not being able to conduct yearly traditions and gatherings and the overall feeling of sadness and despair. The pressure to feel happy “because it’s the holidays” can often have adverse effects as well and make a person feel even worse because they are unable to meet expectations! We carry with us expectations of what everything should be like or look like, based on previous traditions or unattainable measures that we see on tv. Adults, teens and children are all susceptible to the struggles that come with the holiday season and it affects everyone differently. Here are some suggestions to help address and combat the “holiday blues.”
- Don’t worry how things “should be” or have been in the past. Especially with Covid-19; activities, gatherings and celebrations will most likely all look a bit different than in years past. Be realistic going in to the season and anticipate different or absent traditions.
- Be aware of difficult family dynamics. We all have them and they make gatherings hard. Be aware of your emotions and beliefs and potentially limit time spent with people that may cause stress and fights. It is not wrong, it is prioritizing yourself over the opinions of others.
- Take time for yourself and self-care. Do not lose sight of your well-being as you get caught up in the hype and fast-paced nature of the season. Continue to incorporate time for yourself at least a couple times a week, if not everyday
- Communicate any restrictions or limitations you may be experiencing to others. This has been a hard year for everyone and any financial limitations, health concerns or restrictions should be addressed beforehand to avoid any surprises or difficult expectations to have to manage.
- Address any unusual emotional or mental health related concerns. As mentioned, even short term struggles deserve attention and if you feel as if it is harder than in years past, don’t dismiss them as being “just a hard year.” Reach out.
Jordan Martin, MS
Individual and Family Therapist
Lakes Center for Youth and Families