For many, the holidays can make managing loneliness, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions even more challenging than they already are. Neuro Wellness Spa has compiled a list of healthy coping strategies that can help you manage holiday stress, holiday depression, and holiday feeling lonely during the holiday season.
The holiday season is supposed to be fun, joyous, and happy, right? It’s the time of year when we gather with family and friends. But what if we can’t gather with family and friends? And, what if we don’t feel fun, joyous, or happy?
Why are Anxiety and Depression Triggered During the Holidays?
You may be asking yourself why you might have negative feelings during the holidays. To understand this, first, we must understand that triggering events can vary vastly from one person to the next. Flare-ups in mental illness can be incited by an infinite number of different things, and we may not always know the reason. In fact, sometimes there is no reason.
For some, the holiday season can be overwhelmingly stressful. During the fall and winter months, people have to balance their work lives, family lives, personal lives, and real life. People have to shop for gifts, attend parties, and spend money. They may have to see family members they haven’t seen in a long time, they may disappoint their loved ones, and they may simply run out of time. Stress can start to increase around Halloween and not decrease again until after the new year. And for those who struggle with social anxiety, the number of social gatherings one might be expected to attend can add another layer of stress.
Others may be perpetually disappointed by the realities of their holiday season. In the movies, we see happy families, holiday meals, twinkling lights, and magic reindeer. In the real world, we see family strife, credit card bills, unmet quotas, and commercialism. It’s not unnatural to have a glistening mental image of what the holidays, events, and gatherings should be or how they should occur. When these expectations are unmet, it can be a significant letdown because things do not play out how we thought they would. The disappointment of the holiday season may be overwhelming.
Another reason anxiety, loneliness, and depression are often triggered during the holiday season is that it is easier for us to compare ourselves with others, especially financially. Does my sister’s family look healthier than mine on our Christmas cards? Did I spend enough money on my wife’s gift? Is my neighbor’s Christmas tree bigger than ours? Did I get as many presents as I did last year? Unfortunately, the holiday season is steeped in capitalism and consumerism and comparisons to the people around us are sometimes impossible to avoid. Making these comparisons can make us feel anxious and depressed when our neighbors, friends, and relatives seem to be happier and have a better life than we do, even when it is not true.
Other Anxiety and Depression Triggers During the Holidays
It is easy to feel sad and depressed if you are spending the holidays alone. You can feel isolated when you are left out of holiday activities and events and don’t spend time with others. This is extremely common and can lead to profoundly uncomfortable feelings of loneliness.
Families don’t always get along. If there is an ongoing family conflict between loved ones, it can be hard to feel connected and loved. Family conflict during the holidays can lead to additional stress and anxiety during family gatherings and often result in social isolation.
Loss of a Loved One
If a loved one recently passed away and this is the first holiday without them, it can make us experience grief and a sense of loss all over again. Loneliness during the holidays can be overwhelming without your loved one.
It isn’t uncommon to have experienced a traumatic event during the holiday season. Prior traumatic events that occurred during the holidays can be re-triggered and make us feel anxious, depressed, and scared. In an effort to avoid triggers, some might resort to social isolation which could have an impact on emotional health.
Past Substance Abuse
If someone is recovering from drug and/or alcohol abuse, the holidays can be a difficult time triggering anxiety about being around alcohol and drugs. If you are more likely to drink or use drugs when you are feeling lonely or experiencing social isolation, keep in mind that the holiday season can be an overwhelming time of year. Abusing substances can also exacerbate depressive symptoms or another existing mental health condition.
Preventing Loneliness and Depression this Holiday Season
The most important thing you can do for yourself to prevent anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness during the holidays is to practice self-care and do what is best for you. Make a concerted effort to develop healthy coping strategies and maintain healthy habits so that when you begin to experience social isolation or depression this fall and winter, you will not feel overwhelmed.
Consider visiting a mental health professional if you feel lonely or depressed. A mental health professional can help you understand the things that trigger you and help you avoid them. They can also understand why you may feel lonely during the holidays and help you manage the physical symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Your mental and physical health are vital to your overall well-being. Consider incorporating the following during the holiday season if you are beginning to feel overwhelmed:
Set realistic expectations for the holidays.
To avoid feeling let down, consider what you expect from yourself and others without expecting too much.
Do not overdo it.
It is easy to want to do as much as you can during the holiday season. It is okay to scale things down and still enjoy the holidays by limiting what you will do.
Put yourself and your needs first.
There is only so much you can do in a day. Make sure to set time aside each day for personal care, hobbies, and things you enjoy.
If that means skipping family gatherings, holiday parties, and other social events, then skip them. You don’t need to feel guilty about it and your friends and family members should understand.
Consider professional treatment.
There are a variety of mental health resources available such as TMS, ketamine, and other psychiatry treatments can help you maintain your mental health during the holidays. Being proactive about your mental health can be beneficial to help prevent an anxiety or depression relapse.
What Can You Do if You Experience a Symptom Relapse?
If you notice you are experiencing anxiety, loneliness, or depression this fall and winter, it is crucial not to let it become the focal point of your holidays. If you are already receiving some form of ongoing care, consider increasing the number of sessions to provide the additional support you need.
TMS Therapy for Depression During the Holiday Season
If you are worried about anxiety, loneliness, and depression during the holidays, find out if TMS therapy could help by scheduling a no-obligation consultation with one of our health care providers at Neuro Wellness Spa.