The holidays present a dizzying array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, just for starters.
It’s common for many of us to feel overwhelmed, stressed and even depressed. There are ways to minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays, and draw the line between stress and depression.
Short periods of stress are unlikely to cause a serious mental illness. Stress can, if approached with a positive attitude, bring joy and exhilaration to our lives.
Things might seem overwhelming because the holidays tend to concentrate stress into about one month out of the year. It’s how we think of the holiday stress that will make a difference on whether we have happy holidays or feel the holiday blues.
Keeping good habits all year round helps us to reduce the probability of suffering complications during the holidays. Some suggestions to continue our good habits through the holidays are:
- If you’re taking any medication, continue taking it during holiday visits and trips.
- Control sugars and sweets consumption — don’t overindulge in food and drink.
- Welcome thoughts of lost loved ones. The sad memories mean they are still alive in our hearts. The sadness brings back a sense of closeness to them.
- Continue to exercise — go for a walk or take the stairs.
- It’s okay to say no when you’re faced with a busy schedule. On the other hand, if you’re alone and find yourself with too much time in your hands, volunteering to help others is a great way to bring meaning and joy into your life.
- Count your blessings — be grateful for the people around you even if you don’t agree on every detail.
The end-of-year celebrations do disrupt our schedule and they do bring significant stress. But most of this stress is manageable.
Recognizing the signs of depression is important, but just as important is realizing there are physical manifestations of mental distress and avoiding a potentially dangerous situation while we’re trying to “not ruin the party.” For example, it’s important to recognize the warning signs of a migraine, a heart attack or stroke in ourselves or in a relative. The more we delay proper attention the more disruptive or life-threatening the situation can become.
The good news is that we can pay attention to our minds and bodies and take action to avoid further complications. And remember, seek professional help when you need it. If feelings of irritability, hopelessness or anxiety keep coming up, it’s okay to take time for yourself and find a mental health professional who can provide help. Give yourself permission to ask for help and feel empowered in having a choice to do something positive for yourself.