While the holidays can be a time of celebration and joy, they can bring up tough emotions for some people. These feelings, called the “
,” can be confusing to work through. But the good news is, there are plenty of ways you can protect your mental health this holiday season.
In the WebMD webinar “
Holiday Blues: Protect Your Mental Health This Holiday Season
,” WebMD Chief Medical Officer John Whyte, MD, MPH, explained what the holiday blues are, how they can affect you, and ways to prevent and overcome them.
Whyte has been exploring public health issues for nearly 2 decades. He continues to advance strategic partnerships that foster change within our community’s top health concerns.
“Holiday blues are these feelings of sadness,
, or loneliness. They’re temporary and they’re situational. They’re linked to specific stressors and emotional surroundings,” he says.
“The reason why it’s important to be aware of it is because it can develop into more serious, long-term mental health issues – particularly, clinical depression and anxiety.”
Whyte discussed ways to care for your mental health during the festive season. A webinar poll found 63% of viewers prefer to set time aside to relax in order to ease their mental well-being.
Question: I protect my mental health during the holidays by:
Setting aside time to relax: 63%
Something else: 16%
Volunteering my time: 10%
Keeping alcohol to a minimum: 6%
Setting a budget and sticking to it: 5%
In the webinar, Whyte also explained the symptoms you may feel with the holiday blues. A second poll found that the top three emotions people felt during this season were sadness, lack of energy, and loneliness.
Question: Temporary symptoms I have during the holidays are:
Lack of energy: 23%
Trouble concentrating: 15%
Sense of loss: 14%
Is there hope for ever approaching the holidays with joy and positive feelings when the holidays are connected with loss and hurtful memories? What are your suggestions for that?
How do you handle grief during the holidays when you feel as though not having grief is a disservice to the lost loved ones?
How do you handle fear of the new year?
It may be helpful to try to form new memories. You really have to somehow break that connection that’s triggering those harmful memories. Around the holidays, we all have certain traditions that we tend to follow every year. Sometimes those traditions are associated with these harmful memories.
It’s not easy, but changing things that may be a trigger, like location, can help.
With lost loved ones, you may want to be sad for a while. But after you take the time to grieve, it may be helpful to think what the loved one would’ve wanted. They wouldn’t want you to be sad, they’d want you to enjoy your life. You can still honor them with a personal tradition, like visiting their grave or doing something they loved. You’re not forgetting them or disrespecting them. It’s possible to celebrate the holidays with joy while also remembering and honoring loved ones.
You may not be able to do it well after the first holiday, but over time, you’ll adjust to a new normal where you’re able to create new traditions.
Especially when there are a lot of stressful things going on, it can be hard to figure out exactly how to celebrate the new year. You might feel overwhelmed or fearful about how it’ll all work out.
In times like this, it’s best to focus on what you can control. You can control how you behave, how you react, and the things you do on a daily basis.
It’s all about taking it one day at a time. You don’t know exactly what’s going to happen 3 days from now, but can you control certain parts of your day, right now?
Are some demographics at higher risk of holiday blues?
What are strategies for self-care during an event where you see family and they bring up sensitive topics?
If you have a friend or loved one that you think is suffering from seasonal blues, what’s the best way to start a conversation with them about it?
Yes, absolutely. We see holiday blues a lot in the LGBTQ+ community. They may be estranged from family members and feel lonely because they don’t have those close relationships. Similarly, as you get older, you don’t have as many family members who live nearby. People tend to be more at risk for holiday blues if they feel isolated. This may include people in nursing homes as well.
Whether it’s family dinner or a holiday party that takes a turn, it can be hard when someone brings up touchy subjects. Remember that if you need to leave, and it’s possible, that’s OK. Or you can simply walk away. The good news is there’s usually somewhere else you can go to remove yourself from an escalating situation.
Another helpful tactic could be chatting with your partner (or whoever you came to the event with) about how long you plan to stay. That way, you have a plan ahead of the event – especially if triggering subjects are brought up.
Remember that in many cases, when people say hurtful things, it’s a reflection of their personal insecurities. Changing that perspective can help in tough situations.
If you’re concerned about a friend or family member, try asking them how they’ve been sleeping or how their stress levels are instead of the simple “how are you.” You’ll get a much deeper response. They may give you more insight into how they’re really doing. Plus, if someone isn’t sleeping well, that’s usually a key that something else is wrong.
Asking them deeper questions like this can open up the door. Then, if you sense that they might need support, you can begin to offer it. You can suggest that they talk to an expert or take another step toward caring more for their mental health.
What Are the Risk Factors for Holiday Blues?
While anyone can go through tough emotions during this season, some people may be more at risk for the holiday blues.
You might want to take extra care of your mental health during the holidays if you:
Have had recent changes or losses in your life
Are separated from loved ones
Have had past or current mental health issues
Are going through high levels of stress or isolation
You may feel triggered by the stress from holiday preparation, travel, family conflicts, financial strain, memories of loved ones, or simply the fact that the days are shorter and the weather is colder.
All of these things can bring about feelings of holiday blues.
How Can You Protect Yourself from the Holiday Blues?
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to
or avoid getting stuck in negative emotions. Remember, your festive season doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. You can appreciate the emotions you have and care for them while still enjoying the good moments.
Whyte suggests these tips for controlling the holiday blues:
Eat a healthy diet.
Avoid or limit your alcohol.
Keep your financial health in check.
Stay physically active.
Take time for your mental health and self-care.
Avoid comparison, especially on social media.
Get help if you need it.
Watch a replay of “
Holiday Blues: Protect Your Mental Health This Holiday Season
free WebMD webinars
by leading experts on a variety of health topics.
Source : WebMD