5 Tips for Managing the Holiday Blues
It’s that time of year again. The time for heightened anxiety, forced parades of cheerfulness, various family obligations, and the nagging feeling that you’re not doing the holidays “right.” Of course, there are so many things about the holidays that are exciting and fun. But alongside of all of that cheer, there are various opportunities for our everyday mental illnesses to be heightened and triggered. In light of this, the Elevate team came together to formulate five tips for managing the holiday blues. We hope these simple tips will help make your holiday season as peaceful and enjoyable as possible.
- Set reasonable expectations. The holiday season very often turns into a whirlwind of obligations. These obligations can feel overwhelming as they pile up, especially when we feel that our loved ones are expecting us to attend each one. Instead of forcing yourself to do what you think others are expecting of you, plan a schedule that works for you and your body. How late do you actually want to stay at a holiday party? Do you want to stay in and recharge the night before a big event? Asking yourself these and similar questions will help you cultivate a holiday season that is genuinely fun, rather than draining. Conversely, respect others needs this holiday season. Don’t push your loved ones to show up or be present for every event that you were expecting to see them at. Give them the space to do what they need to do for their own mental health.
- Accept your emotions and the emotions of others. Contrary to what movies and television would tell us, we don’t always feel happy during the holiday season. In fact, dynamics with family and loved ones that are triggering or memories of holidays past can often make our depression and anxiety worse than any other time of the year. Not to mention the onset of SAD (Seasonal Depressive Disorder) that occurs in fall and early winter. How do we manage these complex emotions that may come up during the holiday season? One tool is simply accepting them as they are. Don’t force yourself to feign happiness when you are feeling something different inside. The more you allow yourself to feel exactly what you are feeling, those around you will also feel allowed to be as they are — ultimately lowering the pressure for everyone to be Christmas-movie cheerful.
- Don’t overextend yourself because you feel like other people expect it. This is one place where holiday movies have gotten it right. You do not have to prove your love through expensive gifts, enormous feasts, or elaborate parties. If the gift, feast, or party is going to put you into the red, don’t do it! Most loved ones simply want to enjoy the holidays with you. You are worthy of love no matter how much you have to spend.
- Be aware of your relationship with food and drink. This time of year brings an abundance of food and drink. This is exciting, and definitely one of the best parts of the season! But it can also be a trigger for anxiety and depression. Remember, alcohol is a depressant and if you’re trying to to manage your depression during the holiday season, drinking too much can be a major obstacle. Additionally, if you deal with any type of eating disorder the holiday season can bring up triggering aspects of your relationship with food. Consult with a therapist before going into your festivities to create a solid plan for how you’re going to handle these challenging moments.
- Allow yourself to say no. Need I say more? If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. Don’t take another glass of wine if it doesn’t feel right. Don’t go visit your toxic family member if it doesn’t feel right. Don’t go in for the hug if it doesn’t feel right. Put your needs first this holiday season. You deserve to feel good, stable, and peaceful. If you’re requested to do something that would put your own well-being in danger, remember that you always have the right to simply say no. If someone is disappointed, remember that you can’t please everyone. You are responsible for your own actions and emotions, no one else’s.
These are just a few simple tools you can use during the holiday season to mitigate common triggers of anxiety and depression. As with any mental health advice, it is always preferable to talk through these strategies with a licensed therapist who knows your background, specific triggers, and family dynamics. A good conversation with your therapist about how you’re going to approach the holiday season can make the difference between feeling drained and truly enjoying yourself. If you currently don’t have a therapist, schedule a free 10 minute conversation with one of our licensed professionals at any time to start the process. And of course, Happy Holidays!