Now that Thanksgiving has passed, we are officially in the throes of the holiday season. The holidays bring a lot of happiness as we spend time celebrating with family and friends, yet this time of year can also be extremely overwhelming and stressful. Individuals who already struggle with mental health concerns need to take extra precautions during this hectic time of year.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) defines the holiday blues as “temporary feelings of anxiety or depression during the holidays that can be associated with extra stress, unrealistic expectations or even memories that accompany the season.” Individuals may experience fatigue, tension, loneliness, frustration, sadness, or a sense of loss. For some, this may be the first holiday after a loved one has passed, and thus, they need to grieve this loss and learn how to experience the holiday without this person present. For others, they may be struggling with eating concerns, and going to a party that centers on food is extremely difficult. I have worked with several individuals who experience intense anxiety at the thought of having to eat an entire plate of food in front of others. It helps to prepare for these events by developing a structured plan, implementing anxiety reducing techniques, and identifying a support network.
The NAMI definition of the holiday blues includes the term “unrealistic expectations.” Often, we get caught up in the things we “have to do,” ultimately leading us to create our own stress. Instead, it might be helpful to make a list of the things you have to do and want to do. Then, identify just two or three items that are important to you, giving yourself permission to let go of the other items. I always enjoy putting Christmas lights on the house. However, this is quite a tedious task for something that lasts only a few weeks. It often feels like I finally get the lights up, only to spend hours taking them back down again. This year, I decided to do things differently. I had to “let go” of wanting my house lined with lights, and instead placed two 4 foot pre-lit trees on the front lawn. Arranging these lights took no more than 5 minutes, and I am sure that removing them will take even less time.
So during this holiday season, be mindful of the holiday blues. If you are feeling lonely, reach out. Be sure to take time to invest in yourself each day. Spend less time trying to “do it all,” and more time enjoying what the season has to offer.
*For more information about eating concerns and the holidays, please refer to the National Eating Disorders Association (nationaleatingdisorders.org).
*For more information on grief and the holidays, please refer to http://grief.com/grief-the-holidays/
Laura Frazier, Ph.D. is a clinician with CPE Clinic, LLC. She recently re-located back to Maryland with her husband and family. As a mother of three young children, she has prioritized her practice to treating families and children from birth to college, specifically postpartum depression, psycho-educational testing, and anxiety and depression in children, teens, and emerging adults. She has a unique perspective into and sub-specializes in treating those with Dysautonomia and POTS. To read more about her, please click here.