Mental Health During the Holidays
Written by: Jose Luna, MSW
The holidays can often bring the feelings of joy, excitement, and thrill for many. It can also bring that highly anticipated vacation and getting together with family and friends, cold weather and holiday shopping. But for others, it can also bring mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. During this covid era, the pandemic has left many to have to socially distance, refrain from various gatherings and has left many feeling isolated and overwhelmed. With the holiday season fast approaching, many people may be left wondering how they will cope during this season.
There are a variety of factors that can bring on anxiety and depression during the holiday season. Some people experience increased loneliness and isolation as the holidays mark that a certain loved one or loved ones are no longer here. Others may also feel abandoned as they may either be single or not connected with family. Some may feel overwhelmed with financial burdens due to travel or gifts. This holiday season will be particularly hard for many due to recent reports of the high surge of covid related cases, increasing the likelihood of a shutdown of many places. Many people may be forced to continue socially distancing and delay any family gatherings. This can have a tremendous impact on those with mental health issues.
Here are some tips to help cope with the sadness, depression and anxiety during this holiday season;
- Stay or seek therapy; Do not cancel your therapy sessions! Check with your therapist to see if maybe seeing them more than once a week would be beneficial. If your insurance does not cover it, ask for resources. Many emotions will come up leading to the holiday season and it is important to have a safe space to process those feelings.
- Schedule virtual zoom/call dates; Social connections are very important. During this holiday season, many will not be able to attend family gatherings. It may be a good idea to set up a zoom party or meetings with a few people or scheduling a phone date with friends and family. Calling up a friend over facetime or phone and asking them to have lunch will be important. Talk about how you are feeling. Send a text to loved ones and friends. If you are feeling sad, let them know, so they can support you. Chances are, they will be!
- Get some sun; It is expected to be a warm winter here in southern California. Make sure you leave your house at least once a day. Taking out the trash, getting the mail, walking to the corner store for a pack of gum, taking a drive somewhere. Many studies indicate that exposure to nature and sun is good for our minds. If you do not live in a warm and sunny place, it is a good idea to be exposed to bright lights. This can mean turning all the lights on in the house.
- Breathing exercises/guided imagery; Practice breathing exercises and guided imagery. There are many resources on YouTube that you can use for free. Studies have shown that when we are stressed and anxious, taking a few deep breaths and meditation helps restore oxygen in the brain and can alleviate many symptoms.
- Grief Processing; If this holiday season will mark the first year or more without a certain loved one, this can be tough. It may be helpful to create a story book of them or write a letter to that special loved one. Reflecting on what they mean to you. Holidays can be very hard. Allow yourself to grieve but also celebrate who that loved one was.
- Set goals; Many will often feel that when the holidays come around, they have not accomplished what they originally intended to. That is okay! Set up some goals for the following year. Social, academic, travel, dating, work, etc. goals are always good to set. Don’t let anyone discourage you.
Mental illness can be very difficult to manage, but seeking professional help, staying close to loved ones, and practicing self-care is extremely vital during this holiday season.
Written by: JOSE M. LUNA, MSW, Registered Associate Clinical Social Worker 87743 under the supervision of Nancy Ruiz-Barnes, MSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker 79552