Oh no! I’ve got the holiday blues, again…
Updated: Dec 28, 2018
It doesn’t matter what holiday you celebrate. This time of year can be stressful and potentially cause the mental health struggles you deal with regularly – and likely have under control – to flare up. Increases of anxiety and depression around the holidays are so common that a term has been coined and Elvis even wrote a song about it (well and missing someone!).
According to Psychology Today, 38 percent of people surveyed said their stress level went up during the holiday season and listed their top stressors as lack of time, lack of money, commercialism, the pressures of gift-giving and family gatherings.
Some known causes of the holiday blues include overeating, excessive drinking, not getting enough sleep and having unrealistic expectations.
I have an extra special reason to catch this bug each year. My dad passed away on Thanksgiving and his birthday is at the beginning of the month of November on Veteran’s Day. So, each year just as everyone else is started to get merry and excited for the upcoming holiday season, I get hit with a sack of bricks.
This year was the 10-year anniversary of his loss. I was knocked to my knees. I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting it to be that bad. I always struggle, but I the month of November 2018 was basically like no time had passed and I was staring at square one on the grief cycle.
We always say mental health is a roller coaster not a sprint! I can honestly say I am feeling significantly better now, but I wanted to share some tips for how you can get through the next few weeks to avoid some of my pitfalls.
Stop trying to live up to your expectations. Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. I pushed through and kept going instead of giving myself that “mental health” day. I finally hit a wall and found myself three seasons deep in a horrible Hulu show ½ a sweet potato pie put away (his favorite – but not great for pageant prep…). So maybe I needed both of those things to process, rest and just feel my feelings. So, take the time and allow yourself to do whatever it is you need to do.
Make a plan. There are so many holiday parties for work, volunteer organizations, families and friends. Make a plan for what you can and cannot handle and then call ahead and let them know that you can or can’t come. Or that you can only come for part of it. This way you don’t over commit yourself and wind up in January emotionally and physically exhausted!
Set goals and keep a budget. So, this one is key. I did a little too much Black Friday spending in my depressed state. I am not super proud. I did find some good deals, and my hubby is having a good Christmas. Lol. But, it’s best to stick to a budget. You’ll be much happier later, when the bill arrives. Also, go ahead and go to the gym and workout. Don’t just sit there for days at a time on the couch watching Netflix. Go workout, and then let yourself take a nap. You’ll thank yourself later after you eat ½ the pie. Also, don’t eat ½ a pie...
Limit your drinking and eating at holiday parties. Try to remember how you’ll feel the next day. That pie is still on the scale and I’m still trying to work it off! Ugh! Also remember that alcohol may be fun but its depressant, so the next day you may feel much worse than just hungover. I know before I stopped drinking, alcohol was a trigger for my anxiety and panic attacks.
Go volunteer! I am very active in the community. If you follow me on social media, you already know this. But one of the things that helped pull me out of my slump was actually spending a day preparing meals for wounded warriors. It was something I already had planned, but by being there around them, I realized I had a lot to be thankful for. Helping others often helps you feel better.
Ask for help when you need it. Call your friends. Call your family. Call your neighbor. Or you can call the suicide crisis hotline at 1-800-273-TALK, if you’re in severe crisis. Most states also have warmlines so you can chat with a peer counselor through Mental Health America when you’re not in crisis, but you can’t talk to your family or friends about what’s going on.