Holiday Blues: Dealing with Mental Health During the Holidays

For many, mental health and the holidays are closely related. 2020 has been a challenging year, and as it draws to a close, we want to urge everyone to have a mentally, physically and financially healthy holiday season.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues, and the financial fallout from the lockdowns will live on into next year as well. As we celebrate the holidays and finish out the year, our focus is on helping people find peace, whether emotional or financial.

We’d encourage you to keep compassion in mind this holiday season, and go the extra mile to let family, friends, and loved ones know that you’re thinking of them and care about their wellbeing.

Read on to learn how you can help others achieve good mental health during the holidays.

Coping with social isolation and loneliness

It’s tough to be isolated from the ones you love, and right now millions of us are still going through isolation due to COVID-19 restrictions. You probably missed Thanksgiving with your full family, and you might miss Christmas Dinner and New Year’s celebrations as well.

It’s not easy to deal with, especially after so many months of being locked down and isolated from each other.

Think about it; for many crimes, the worst punishment we mete out is to keep the offender in solitary confinement. But now the pandemic has forced isolation on millions of people who’ve done nothing wrong.

Tip for spreading holiday cheer this year:

Make sure everyone on your holiday shopping list hears from you during this holiday season. Think of anyone you may have forgotten and set aside some time to reach out. The best gift you may be able to give is to break someone’s isolation as winter sets in.

Identifying depression during the holidays

Mental health and the holidays can bring on bouts of sadness. Holiday depression isn’t a new phenomenon. Many people are prone to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and regularly feel “down” this time of year.

Stress from busy holiday or end-of-year activities contributes to this, as well as enhanced feelings of loss. People who have lost loved ones throughout the year feel renewed pain when they realize this is their first Christmas without someone special. With the pandemic claiming so many vulnerable people, we know a lot of us will have some tough times during the holidays this year.

SAD is when depression is regularly focused around a particular time of year; if someone feels depression during a particular time frame for more than 2 years in a row, they may have Seasonal Affective Disorder. Some people are more prone to this in the winter because of shorter days with less sunlight, or reduced activity due to winter weather.

Depression signs might include:

  • Unusual weight loss or gain, or change in appetite
  • Feeling tired or fatigued too frequently
  • Inability to sleep, or oversleeping frequently
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Lack of joy or interest in things that typically would be pleasurable
  • Unexplained sadness, coming on seemingly without a clear reason
  • Feeling unworthy, guilty, or anxious

How to help someone who’s dealing with holiday blues

If you’ve got someone in your life who is isolated or may have problems with mental health during the holidays, here are some mental health tips and ways you can be there for them, even remotely:

  • Let your loved ones know that you are grateful to have them in your life and they are important to you.
  • Let them express how they feel without judgement. If anyone lets you know they’re suffering emotionally right now, make sure they know it’s perfectly normal not to feel happy all the time, even during the holidays.
  • If loved ones were lost this year, remember—and remind others in your family—that it’s okay to feel happiness during the holidays. Some people feel ‘survivor’s guilt’ and think it’s not appropriate to be joyous during their first holidays after a loss. But bear in mind that the loved ones you lost would want you to be happy, and remember the good times you had with them along with the sadness of loss.
  • Encourage mental health counseling if necessary. If you or a loved one needs professional help, remember there is nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing wrong with reaching out and asking. Tell your loved ones it’s okay to need help sometimes, especially in a year like this one.
  • Schedule some remote activities. It’s nice to reach out and chat with friends and family who might be feeling isolated. A good way to boost morale remotely might be to schedule a specific time for a longer online get-together. Plan to meet up on Zoom or FaceTime. Start a book club, have a streaming movie “watch party” or play a game online—have something on the calendar that everyone can look forward to attending.
  • Include old-fashioned correspondence. Send written letters or postcards. When you’re talking to your remote loved ones online or on the phone, tell them “I mailed you a card.” Give them a reason to look forward to checking the mailbox.
  • Be patient, and positive. The world is a tough enough place right now, so avoid conflict or blaming others for their own problems. Look for positive solutions and reasons to look forward to a better future. Do be firm if your loved one needs help and refuses to ask for it. Caring about someone sometimes means being tough and making them get the help they need. But do so with empathy and without judgment.
  • Keep an eye on physical health. During the holidays, some people’s health suffers due to bad food and excessive drinking. Keep an eye on your physical wellness and that of your loved ones—remind everyone to stay active, even if they’re confined to their homes.

For immediate issues, don’t take any chances.

With any kind of mental health symptoms, it’s critical to seek out (and recommend to others) qualified professional help. If you or someone you know are in immediate danger, dial 9-1-1. Don’t rely on any website for a diagnosis or treatment.

Get Help – Mental Health Resources

There are many resources from national organizations and websites that can offer more information and help. Here are some of them:

  • Crisis Text Line
    • US and Canada: text HOME to 741741
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Toll Free)
  • American Foundation For Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
    • Phone: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
    • Website: afsp.org
  • SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

The best is yet to come

We hope everyone can make the best of the holidays during trying times, and look forward to happier holidays next year. That’s the ultimate takeaway from 2020—things can only get better! So be there for each other, and get (and give) help where it’s needed.

If your finances are the thing that’s getting you down this holiday season, talk to a certified financial coach, free of charge, for expert advice. Happy holidays!

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