The holidays are a time to enjoy family, gift giving, parties and great food. However, for some, the holiday season is far from being the most wonderful time of the year. Coined the “holiday blues,” this condition should not be taken lightly. 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, many people experience varying levels of anxiety or depression during the holiday season, especially those who already have a pre-existing mental health condition. Whether it’s the extra stresses and unrealistic expectations that accompany the season or the feelings of loneliness and sadness, the holiday blues can be hard to shake. 

Arizona has a population of approximately 6.7 million people. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, close to 4.6% of adults live with a serious mental health condition. However, only 40.3% of adults with mental illness in Arizona receive any form of treatment.

Managing stress, and feelings of anxiety and depression, can be even more difficult than usual. Here are some practical tips that may help: 

Avoid excessive spending. Plan ahead and set a budget for your holiday gift giving. Stick to your budget and be responsible. Consider only spending cash or giving a homemade present this year.

Take people at face value. With the holidays comes an influx of family members and friends that you may only see once a year. Try to manage your expectations of people that often have a negative effect on you. Limit your time with them, and if possible, surround yourself with people who make you happy.

Let it go. Don’t try to get everything done in one day. Set realistic goals. Make a list and try to check off two to three items every day. Delegate tasks when appropriate. It’s perfectly okay to task others with sharing some of the holiday responsibilities.

Get adequate sleep. A good night’s sleep is incredibly important to your physical and mental health. In fact, it’s just as important as eating healthy and exercising.  

Don’t overindulge. There are countless opportunities to overindulge in rich food and alcoholic beverages during the holiday season. Overindulging can lead to feelings of guilt or shame, deflating your self-esteem. Enjoy your holiday season by practicing indulgence in moderation.

Keep active. When you plan your holiday schedule, allow yourself opportunities to be active. And while the average person may only gain about a pound during the holidays, this pound is one that most people never lose — and it adds up! In addition, exercise is great for mental health.

Take up a hobby. Combat loneliness and isolation this winter by picking up a winter hobby, joining a group or volunteering with a local nonprofit. Plus, there’s no better way to make new friends!

Ask for help. If you know that you typically have a tough time during the holidays, ask friends and family members to check in on you from time to time. If you feel the need for more formal support, talking with a mental health professional can help. Talking about your struggles tends to put them in perspective. 

Make a mental health crisis plan. For those who have a mental health condition, be sure to continue your therapy sessions. Don’t skip one just because things are busy. And if you’re taking prescription medications, beware of the side effects of mixing your medications with alcohol. JN

Kathy Rood is the program manager of Jewish Family & Children’s Service. For more information on services available through Jewish Family & Children’s Service, contact Kathy at 602-452-4627 or kathy.rood@jfcsaz.org.

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