Updated: Feb 22
While the holidays are the perfect time to enjoy your loved ones and celebrate, mental health struggles like depression and anxiety can take over and ruin this precious time. One survey by the American Psychological Association uncovered some interesting data about the holiday blues: while the majority of people in the survey reported feelings of happiness, love, and high spirits over the holidays, those emotions were often accompanied by feelings of fatigue, stress, irritability, and sadness. Thirty-eight percent of people surveyed said their stress level increased during the holiday season. Participants listed the top stressors: lack of time, lack of money, commercialism, the pressures of gift-giving, and family gatherings. According to another survey, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that approximately 24% of people with a diagnosed mental illness find that the holidays make their condition “a lot” worse and 40% “somewhat” worse. The pressure of trying to do everything, planning the perfect holiday, traveling to visit family, saying yes to every event,, can be enough to send anyone into a tail spin.
Most of us try to do way too much during the holidays, causing intense stress and putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves. When it comes time to planning holiday events for your friends and family members, there can be added pressure to make sure that everything is perfect. For someone who deals with anxiety on a regular basis, this can add to the daily symptoms that are often debilitating. The holidays don’t always bring out the best in our family members—or ourselves. Personality clashes and petty fights can rise at family gatherings, triggering unwanted emotions and throwing us off center. Many people can also feel sad when they don’t have the opportunity to be with their loved ones, or even when a loved one is no longer with them. This sadness can turn into a seasonal depression, and you may feel like the holidays are completely ruined. Self-awareness is an important factor when it comes to mental health, but many of us slip into the trap of thinking we “should” feel a certain way during the holidays instead of acknowledging what we do feel. “The holiday season beams a spotlight on everything that is difficult about living with depression,” said a woman responding to one of the surveys. “The pressure to be joyful and social is tenfold.”
On the other hand, it is also a period in which we get a much-needed escape from our regular obligations and responsibilities. This downtime can offer us the opportunity to indulge in some leisurely pursuits, like reading a novel that’s been on your “to read” list or finally visiting that restaurant you’ve been wanting to eat at. On a more practical front, this break can also offer you the opportunity to take care of home in ways you may have been neglecting. Maybe the laundry has been sitting around for a little too long or you haven’t gotten to your long chore list. And of course, one of the aspects of the holiday season that can be most exciting is the ability to spend more time with friends and family. We often sacrifice time with the people we love when we are tapped with work or school responsibilities. Settling down during the holiday season can give you more time with loved ones, to watch movies, play games and have fun together.