Mental health during the holidays

A woman holds up a present that says "Mental health during the holidays"

For many, the holiday season can be a jubilant time, but it can also be stressful, emotionally challenging, or even painful. This year marks the third holiday season of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also the first holiday season where gatherings are back to pre-pandemic levels.

Maybe you’re feeling anxiety about traveling or gathering with more people than you have in previous years. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed about hosting or feeling grief from losing a loved one, experience, ritual, traumatic event, etc.

It’s OK if the holiday season isn’t the happiest time of year for you. The season can stir up a myriad of feelings ranging from depression, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, happiness, etc.

This holiday season, and every day, we encourage you to prioritize yourself and protect your mental health. Here are a few ways to do it.

Establish your holiday triggers

Spend some time reflecting on what is challenging for you during the holidays. Perhaps it’s shuffling between too many houses on Thanksgiving, a relative making unwanted comments about your appearance, or that perpetual argument about politics. Make a list of things that make you feel bad. This list can include people, experiences, food and drink, media and more.

Determine mental, emotional, physical and financial boundaries

Coping strategies are our actions to deal with stress, problems, or uncomfortable emotions. Boundaries are an example of a coping strategy. Your boundaries may reflect your comfort level traveling, being in big groups, or making multiple stops on Thanksgiving. Define your boundaries and communicate your needs. This may look like, “I have to leave at 7 p.m.” or “We aren’t going to be able to celebrate together because I don’t feel up for it.” Boundaries could also look like sticking to a budget for gifts or food shopping. Recognize your limits and say “no” when you feel overextended or if your limits have been compromised. Remember that healthy relationships can handle “no.”

Take care of yourself and plan self-care

Put your own mental and physical well-being first. Get enough sleep, be mindful of how you’re fueling your body and ask for help when you need it. It’s important to be able to recognize when a mood or behavioral change has become more than a temporary thing.

Warning signs to look out for during the holidays:
• isolating yourself and avoiding spending time with others
• sleeping more than usual
• losing pleasure in activities you once enjoyed
• feeling hopeless
• feeling stuck
• losing or gaining weight
• experiencing changes in appetite

If you notice one or more of these signs, which are constant or apparent most of the time, last for two weeks or longer and/or negatively affect your daily life, it may be time to seek professional help. You can always stop in at our Olathe or Shawnee locations for walk-in services – called Open Access – Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

It’s easy to get lost in the craziness surrounding the holiday season, so plan out self-care time for the coming months to make sure you can relax and enjoy the holidays. Dedicate one day a week to yourself in the leadup to the holidays. This could look like prioritizing or scheduling rest, journaling, slowing down with a good movie or book, or doing nothing. Also, saying “no” can be a form of self-care.

If this holiday season feels like a lot, know you’re not alone. We’re feeling that way too. It’s OK to feel mixed emotions around the holidays. If you find yourself feeling sad, angry, stressed, or anxious, don’t hesitate to ask for help. We’re here for you 24/7 at 913-268-0156.