Holidays And Mental Health
From the countdown of the New Year and making New Year’s resolution through Easter to the Ho! Ho! Ho! Of Christmas holidays, holidays are expected to bring cheer happiness and laughter but studies tend to prove otherwise. Yes, people get excited to get a day off work but a percentage of that, spend the day off engaging in unhealthy behavior e.g. excessive drinking. According to the American Psychological Association, 38% of people surveyed said their stress increased during the holiday season, which can lead to physical illness, depression, anxiety, and substance use. The reasons given: lack of time, financial pressure, gift-giving, and family gatherings. In the US the National Alliance of Mental Illness conducted a research that indicated that 64% of the people with mental illness condition worsen around the holidays. If you are that one person who is a little blue during the holidays, you are not alone.
The common issues associated with this changes are:
1. Loss and grief – Holidays can be a reminder of good times with friends and family who are departed and their memories can increase feelings of loneliness or sadness.
2. Pressure to visit families and gift them – having to spend time with family, travel plans and gifting or doing shopping for the loved ones all require money and with unstable economy, financial constrains may result to feelings of sadness.
3. One has to be in holiday spirits – the cheerfulness that people have during holidays may make one feel stigmatized when they are feeling low making it hard for one to express themselves with an aim of not ruining the happy spirit.
4. Feeling alone and isolated – While it’s true that many of us have friends and family to connect with during the holiday season, there’s also the danger of becoming isolated. If you are predisposed to depression or anxiety, it can be especially hard to reach out to others.
Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression can include:
• Acknowledge your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
• Be realistic. Holidays change but so do family traditions.
• Reach out if you feel lonely. Volunteering helps lift moods.
• Stick to a budget. Know the limit of your finances sand stick to it.
• Plan ahead and avoid last minute shopping and plans.
• Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed
• Make some time for yourself. Find an activity you enjoy. Take a break by yourself.
• Seek professional help when the anxiety and stress persist.
By Lucy Wanjohi
Chiromo Hospital Group