While getting through the holiday season during a normal year is hard, doing it with a mental health condition like anxiety or depression can present an even greater challenge. Complicating things for the second year in a row, COVID-19 continues to affect our mental health as individuals and communities.
Since early 2020, life for everyone has changed in the most unprecedented of ways, leaving many people with feelings of heightened anxiety and stress. Even pre-COVID, the holiday season was a time that could stir up feelings of anxiety and stress for individuals with all the added pressures such as meal, gift and party planning. Navigating the holiday season and returning to big family gatherings amid the ever-changing landscape with Covid -19 can be an even more challenging time for many.
How COVID-19 Has Affected Our Mental Health
People have been through so much in the last wo years, including loss, isolation and immense stress. According to Harvard University COVID-19 has created unimaginable shifts and difficulties for people all over the globe. This fact, reinforced by our personal experiences, has caused people to change their views on work, relationships, routines and traditions. Even navigating the holiday season requires a new approach.
When you live with a mental health condition
If a mental health condition is a part of your life or you are in recovery from substance dependence, the 2021 holiday season may feel especially arduous. Consistency is imperative for people recovering from mental health challenges, and it is this time of year when our routines become the most disrupted. Loss of consistency, unfamiliarity and sudden changes can have negative effects, especially during times of high stress.
Here Are Some Tips for This Holiday Season
With the holiday season just a couple of weeks away, this is a great time to plan and prepare so that this can truly be a happy holiday. While this time of year can be exciting, it is important to acknowledge your feelings as these major events approach and seek appropriate support when needed.
Feel your feelings
It’s okay not to be okay. In the last two years, people have faced so much loss and isolation; it is normal to feel sadness or grief as we enter this season. Whether these are the first holidays spent in the wake of a loss, or health conditions have deteriorated due to COVID-19 or other health reasons that, for you, it’s not practical or possible to be with loved ones. The emotions surrounding your holiday plans likely feel heavy and challenging to navigate.
While there is no resolution for many of these situations that will bring things back to “normal,” It is vital to take time to feel your feelings and to process them adequately.
Make some time to figure out how you are feeling prior to the holiday season. This helpful practice will give you time to figure out a plan and may even result in feeling less overwhelmed. Mental Health America suggests, “Take some time to sort through your emotions in whatever way is most productive for you—you can journal, talk to a friend or just spend some quiet time alone thinking. Once you have a better idea of the specific feelings you’re experiencing, you can start making plans to cope with them.”
Remember you are stronger than you think this holiday season
It is important to be kind to yourself and give yourself grace. This has been a hard time for people across the globe, and it can help to look outside yourself and notice the strength of your fellow man. It is sometimes hard to see or realize, but the resilience and adaptability we have had to embrace in the last two years is truly incredible. Sure, we have had tough times and have had to figure out completely new ways to live our daily lives and take steps to protect our recovery, but again, this just points back to our strength and perseverance.
Reflect on the way that the world has changed and the ways that you have adapted. You are a survivor, after all. Give yourself credit for making it through during these tough times. Even if you’re not quite where you want to be, progress is key.
Think outside the box
Change is inevitable! Yes, it is difficult for a lot of us, especially when you didn’t ask for or even expect any changes. Since the onset of COVID-19, the world has changed, and it is important to acknowledge that things will never return to exactly the way they were. The holiday season will also look different, and that is okay too.
Instead of focusing on what you can’t control, it can be beneficial to try and focus on what you can. Embracing these changes can be a key to having a happy holiday season and can save you and your family from feelings of frustration and disappointment. It is important to remember that as families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Look at things with a positive spin. This is a great time to get creative and come up with unique new traditions for the whole family.
Taking the time to stay in touch with loved ones is as essential as ever. Be it with family, friends, other community groups or support networks; communication is key. If you find yourself feeling lonely, sad or isolated, reach out to your support network. There are many virtual resources and groups that can offer mental health support as well, and it’s not too late to recognize that things aren’t working as is.
Regular communication and connection can help you feel less lonely or isolated as much as it can help those around you. It does not always have to be for scheduled events or large get-togethers. Sometimes a short call to let someone know that you are thinking about them is enough. A quick internet search will yield ideas for fun and more creative ways to interact with friends and family during the season safely.
Stay active during the holidays
Despite how the holiday season often brings up negative feelings, it can also bring a lot of opportunities for fun and festive activities. It’s a great time to embrace winter and all it has to offer. Perhaps take this time of the year to plan fun activities and new traditions to look forward to. Make sure to keep up with healthy habits and to include regular physical activity, healthy meals and a good sleep schedule in your routine.
While staying physically active is beneficial, it is equally valuable also to stay mentally active. For many during the holiday season, things seem to slow down, leaving more free time. Use it to start a new hobby, join a book club, or enroll in a short course.
Good care is self-care
Self-care is imperative when trying to deal with tough situations positively. Schedule some time to check in with yourself about what you need this holiday season. Are you stressed? Sad? Grieving? Feeling disconnected? Take your emotional state into account when you create your plan for taking care of your mental health.
If you already have a self-care routine that works for you, stick with it! If you do not have a self-care routine, this is a great time to create one. Take some time to think about what activities help you relax and feel calm and refreshed. Spending just a few minutes alone per week and being strict about your boundaries could be the key to having a positive holiday season. Activities such as going for a nature walk, listening to soothing music or practicing mindfulness activities are all options for taking some personal time to rejuvenate.
Seek mental health support if you need it this holiday season
If you live with a mental health condition and have a counselor, it is important to discuss your care, have a plan and figure out what your schedule will look like during the holidays. Especially if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, it is beneficial to have trained professionals available to help you navigate these stressful times.
It is also a good time to lean on your friends and support network. Reach out to friends and family who may be aware of some of the anxiety or mental health challenges you’re facing and establish a weekly or bi-weekly check-in time.
Keep in mind there is nothing wrong with needing additional support if needed. If things feel too overwhelming to manage alone, you might feel it would be beneficial to check into an inpatient facility for a few weeks. You can also always reach out to us today to learn more about our treatment options and offerings. Connect with us at 888-967-2779. We are here to help you to feel healthy enough to manage your holiday anxiety during COVID-19.