Why is the "Most Wonderful Time of the Year” not really wonderful at all?
The National Alliance on Mental Health found that 64% of individuals living with a mental illness felt that their condition worsened around the holidays. There are a variety of reasons that the holidays can be hard on everyone, especially those struggling with mental health. In this article, I’ll discuss some of the most common reasons the holidays can be…not so jolly. Over the next few weeks, keep an eye out for tips on protecting your mental health over the holidays, and maybe even enjoy them.
Holidays = Family Time
The holidays are a time for families to come together and enjoy each other's company…right? What happens if you don’t enjoy each other’s company? It’s no secret that family dynamics are complicated. Throughout the year, it's up to you how much time you spend with family; you get to decide what’s best for your mental health. When the holidays come around, they tend to bring a feeling of obligation. You’re expected to spend your time a certain way over the holidays. These expectations can lead to stress and anxiety and worsen symptoms you’re already experiencing.
The Holidays are Expensive
Financial expenses are a huge stressor in day-to-day life. Once you add on expensive holiday expenditures, you can assume you’ll add on a lot more stress. The holidays come with so many expectations, expensive expectations. Gifts, travel, parties, just to name a few. Reports have found that 77% of Americans are anxious about their financial situation. The marketing and expectations around holidays encourage overspending, which encourages you to show your love for others with money and gifts and creates the idea that to enjoy the holidays, you have to spend. This spending can negatively impact your mental health.
The Holidays are DARK…Literally
During the holiday season, there is less sunlight, leaving you in the dark…literally. This lack of sunlight can lead to worsening symptoms of depression. The lack of sun can cause a drop in serotonin, bringing on symptoms of depression. A lack of melatonin is also possible, which can lead to a disruption in your sleep patterns. Any change in serotonin or melatonin levels can worsen symptoms of mental illness. The shorter days of winter don’t create a super beneficial environment for feeling holly jolly.
Holidays Can Make You Feel Alone
The commercials, the movies, the stories, it seems like almost everything about the holidays is made to remind you that you “should” be surrounded by loved ones. For some people, spending time with loved ones isn't a challenging task; it’s impossible. The holidays can amplify feelings of grief and loneliness. Dealing with grief is a constant struggle, but during the holidays, there are reminders on every corner, making it especially hard to deal with.
What can I do to improve my mental health during the holidays?
In this blog, we discussed a few of the reasons holidays can take a toll on your mental health. Some people experience a few of these stressors; others experience them all. It’s important to remember that while holiday stress and anxiety may not be avoidable, there are ways to cope with these negative feelings. In our next blog, we will explore different ways to alleviate some of the holiday stress and help you to improve and maintain your mental health.