Once again, the holidays are upon us. The holiday season can be stressful and demanding especially for individuals struggling with mental health. According to one study conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, they found “64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their condition worse”.

Additionally, a common phenomenon individuals report struggling with throughout the holiday season is “the winter blues”. These can stem from financial stressors, loss of family members, mental or physical health conditions, divorce, etc. These emotions can feel magnified under different stressors such as having to see family members maybe we don’t necessarily want to see but feel obligated to.

These feelings can feel isolating, and they don’t necessarily mean we should avoid or skip holidays all together. Here are some strategies to help navigate difficult emotions throughout the holiday season:

How to Survive this Holiday Season

Acknowledge your own needs

We all have complicated family dynamics and endure various social pressures within our family during the holiday season. Notice your own needs in terms of where you want to expend your energy. Again, holidays can feel exhausting and utilizing skills like boundary setting can be helpful in prioritizing your energy and needs. During holiday gatherings with family, check-in with yourself regarding what you need, that could look like taking a small break, leaving early, or having an exit plan.

Hold space for your emotions

Allow intentional time in your schedule to hold space for your emotions. This could look like journaling, painting, or listening to a certain playlist depending on your mood. Meet your emotions with a sense of curiosity and explore where they could be stemming from. Naming and noticing your emotions is a powerful step in navigating through them.

Prioritize mental well-being

Give yourself some distance from all the holiday festivities, even if it is just for a short period of time. Exercise can be helpful, whether that is going to the gym or going on a walk.

Reach out for support

Having people that feel safe to reach out to can be so important. Whether that is a best friend, a therapist, or a family member. Reach out! Use your support system to lean on when difficult emotions or situations come up throughout the holiday season.

Holiday blues look and feel different between individuals as holiday blues are different than experiencing recurrent depression with seasonal patterns, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder is most common in the winter months. According to BU Today, Seasonal Affective Disorder “impacts ten million Americans”. If these emotions continue to persist, reach out for support from a healthcare professional.

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