Holidays and mental health issues often don’t make for great bedfellows. Each, on its own, is stressful enough, but when the holidays and a mental health issue like anxiety or depression come together, the union is often a bad one.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, a survey found that 3 out of 5 Americans report that their mental health is negatively impacted by the holidays. If you consider that about 40 million adults in the United States have an anxiety disorder and 21 million adults are affected by depression, it’s likely that these people represent a good portion of those who feel hit by the holidays.
Whether you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or some other mental health issue, Dr. Diana Ghelber and the team here at Institute for Advanced Psychiatry want to help. To that end, we’ve pulled together five tips that can help you better navigate the holidays.
1. Have a plan of action in place before the holidays
The first suggestion we’d like to make is that you come see us so that we can pull together a plan of action. We want to make sure that you have the tools you need to get through the holidays with the least amount of resistance.
From managing your medications to reviewing deep-breathing and other on-the-spot techniques for handling your mental health, we make sure you’re well prepared for the holidays.
We also spend time going over a potential plan of action for different scenarios, and we review a few other mental health best practices, such as the ones we cover below.
2.Have an escape
The last thing you want to feel during the holidays is trapped. So, remember to guard your boundaries and participate in the holidays at a level at which you’re comfortable.
For example, you don’t have to be the last person to leave or the first to arrive. Holiday events are often hours-long affairs and you can pick your hours and leave when you feel ready.
3. Watch your alcohol consumption
Many people turn to alcohol as , “Liquid courage,” or to self-medicate, but this practice often only makes matters worse. If you’re struggling with anxiety, for example, having a few drinks might make you feel temporarily better, but the anxiety is still there and, when the alcohol wears off, it often comes roaring back, stronger than before.
Even worse, alcohol tends to heighten or amplify mental health issues — your sadness becomes more profound or your worries multiply.
If substance use isn’t a problem for you, we recommend that you keep the alcohol consumption to a minimum.
4.Focus on gratitude
We love a practice in which you keep the focus on things that you’re thankful for during the holidays. Emphasizing gratitude puts a positive spin on the holidays, so think of three things that you’re grateful for each morning and review only good events before you go to sleep.
5. Practice a little self love
If you’re giving gifts over the holidays, put yourself on the list, too. Go for a massage, treat yourself to a play, buy yourself something new — these are all little ways in which you can show yourself a little love over the holidays.
With a little effort and planning, the holidays don’t have to be a time of dread. If you want more ideas or a personalized plan for your holidays, we invite you to contact us at the Institute for Advanced Psychiatry in Granbury or Fort Worth, Texas, to schedule a consultation.