Mental Health Awareness During the Holiday Season

Reasons Behind Worsening Mental Health

The holiday season can be a joyful and festive time filled with happy memories and loved ones. However, for others, the holidays may be a time for stressful and challenging moments. In fact, 64% of those who had a mental illness felt that the holiday season made their conditions worse [1]. Unfortunately, the combination of financial strain, pressures for gifts, and increased social outings with family members can lead to increased stress [1]. This is especially true this year with the increased rate of inflation affecting overall spending. With inflation at a 40-year high, Americans have to look at ways to budget as they try to maintain their standard of living [2]. One poll shows that the top reason for stress was increased costs for everyday items such as bills and groceries. This means families may feel more overwhelmed with financial burdens, leading to increased feelings of anxiety, depression, and more. 

Furthermore, the effects of the pandemic still continue to have a toll on people’s mental health. Over 6 million people around the world have passed due to COVID-19 [3]. The holiday season can be especially hard when you’ve lost someone you would normally spend time with. This contributes to the worsening mental health conditions that people face during the holidays. Furthermore, even after the past three years of isolation, some people may still choose to isolate themselves from family members due to the combination of the worsening flu, COVID-19, and RSV [4]. Moreover, people associate the holidays as a time for social gatherings and spending time with loved ones. But those who are unable to connect may feel increased loneliness and feelings of isolation. Overall, feelings of loneliness are more common in the younger generations, people of color, and those with lower incomes [4]. 

Being Mindful

A survey showed that around 38% of people had increased feelings of stress during the holiday season, resulting in anxiety, depression, misuse of drugs, and even physical illnesses [1]. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of those around you, whether that be family, friends, coworkers, or even complete strangers because you never know what someone is struggling with. For those who are feeling the pressure of the holiday season, know that you are not alone and that it is okay not to feel overly happy during this time. One of the most important things to do during feelings of holiday angst is to acknowledge different triggers that increase stress [1]. This helps us feel more in control over situations that often feel overwhelming. 

Furthermore, those struggling with grief and loneliness should know that you don’t have to force the holiday celebrations just because it is that time of year. It’s important to let those around you know you need support and to reach out to therapists and community members. It’s also important to set realistic expectations and prioritize certain events rather than trying to attend every holiday outing [1]. Furthermore, setting boundaries for situations that may increase feelings of stress is important. Also, prepare self-care options for when you can’t avoid certain situations. Overall, it’s important to acknowledge how you feel and be compassionate toward any feelings of stress or anxiety that may come up. Moreover, making connections with others is a useful tool for understanding our feelings, as well as a method of obtaining support during these increasingly hard times. 

Hotlines

For anyone seeking help or feeling overwhelmed, here is a link for free and confidential resources to connect you with a trained mental health professional:

https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/tools-resources/individuals/index.htm

References

  1. https://www.mcleanhospital.org/essential/mcleans-guide-managing-mental-health-around-holidays 
  2. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20220426/inflation-concerns-anxiety-depression 
  3. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-death-toll/ 
  4. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/loneliness-can-affect-physical-and-mental-health-an-expert-shares-ways-to-combat-it-this-holiday-season