Christmas And Mental Health  


Christmas and Mental Health

Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Christmas and mental health are interconnected in multiple ways, as the holiday season can affect the mind positively and negatively. Although, the cheer and the joyousness of the seasons could improve moods from positive experiences and connections, several factors like holiday trauma triggers, stress, negative thoughts, and social isolation can be a dent in our ability to enjoy the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year.

Christmas And Mental Health In Statistics
Christmas And Mental Health In Statistics

Common Signs Of Poor Mental Health During Christmas

The common signs 1 Schneider, E., Liwinski, T., Imfeld, L., Lang, U. E., & Brühl, A. B. (2023). Who is afraid of Christmas? The effect of Christmas and Easter holidays on psychiatric hospitalizations and emergencies-Systematic review and single center experience from 2012 to 2021. Frontiers in psychiatry13, 1049935. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.1049935 of poor mental health during Christmas include:

  • Dreading the very anticipation or thought of the approaching Christmas.
  • Irritability, increased impatience, and frustration.
  • Issues of sleeplessness or poor sleeping patterns.
  • Feeling swamped by Christmas demands related to shopping, organizing celebrations, financial stress, etc.
  • Acute pain symptoms like headaches, fatigue, muscle tension, etc.
  • Drastic appetite and weight changes.
  • Anxiety, such as social anxiety and financial anxiety.
  • Unrealistic standards and extremely obsessive tendencies to make the holidays perfect.
  • Frequent mood swings and a lax in decision-making skills.
  • Procrastination and delay in holiday-related tasks.
  • Weakened immune system and susceptibility to illness.
  • Negative and skeptical feelings throughout Christmas and the holiday season.

Read More About Anxiety Here

Christmas And Mental Health In Films

Several films explore the intricate link between Christmas and mental health. For instance, It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) follows a suicidal man at Christmas, who is visited by an angel to show him the life he would be missing. The film is a cult-classic, because of its progressive portrayal of depression, self-harm, and suicidality during the holiday season. Miracle On 34th Street (1994) follows a young girl and a lawyer pairing up to save a man from being institutionalized, a man who claims that he is the real “Santa Claus.” The fantasy film examines mental health institutionalization, and how community support is healing for people battling mental illness at Christmas.

Read More About Mental Illness Here

Films like Jack Frost (1998) and Klaus (2019) shed light on the challenges of navigating the holidays with grief and loss. Happiest Season (2020) follows a lesbian couple, Abby and Harper, as they spend Christmas with Harper’s conservative family. The film explores how experiences of homophobia can make mental health during the holidays challenging. Recently, Spencer (2021) revived the iconic Diana, Princess Of Wales to depict how eating disorders, body image issues, and emotional abuse contribute to poor mental health during the holidays.

Causes Of Poor Mental Health During Christmas

The common causes 2 Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2011). The christmas effect on psychopathology. Innovations in clinical neuroscience8(12), 10–13. of poor mental health during Christmas can be attributed to:

  • Holiday trauma triggers, particularly PTSD at Christmas.
  • Social expectations of relentlessly participating in a happy family gathering.
  • Financial stress from buying gifts, travelling and other expenses for celebrations.
  • Time constraints (including balancing daily task-disruptions with holiday preparations).
  • Dysfunctional family dynamics and interpersonal distance.
  • Perfectionism, over-commitment, and the unrealistic pursuit of incredible holiday expectations.
  • Fear of social isolation and loneliness during Christmas.
  • Drawing comparisons over the holidays in person or over social media
  • Bittersweet reflections on the year, particularly evaluating personal achievements and disappointments over the year gone by.

Read More About Loneliness Here

Christmas And Mental Health

Christmas is usually considered a cheerful season that boosts mental health. However, the holiday blues and stress also tend to heighten around Christmas time, because of which the holiday season can negatively affect mental health 3 Hairon N. (2008). How christmas festivities and pressures can damage health and well-being. Nursing times104(50-51), 33–34. . Several holiday trauma triggers and stressors cause several psychological conditions like seasonal depressive disorder, financial stress, and social anxiety.

Moreover, society’s focus on perfect celebrations may set unrealistic standards that make people feel incapable of living up to such standards. This, in turn, may result in mental health issues like anxiety spikes, Christmas depression, eating disorders, body image issues, low self-esteem, and substance use through activities like relentless drinking and over-partying, etc.

Many people may also relate Christmas to personal losses or past traumatic experiences, which can make them feel more isolated and helpless 4 Hofstra, E., Elfeddali, I., Bakker, M., de Jong, J. J., van Nieuwenhuizen, C., & van der Feltz-Cornelis, C. M. (2018). Springtime Peaks and Christmas Troughs: A National Longitudinal Population-Based Study into Suicide Incidence Time Trends in the Netherlands. Frontiers in psychiatry9, 45. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00045 . Popularly considered a form of PTSD at Christmas, these experiences may include painful flashbacks and an internalization of negative feelings. Along the same lines, people dealing with grief and toxic relationships/family dynamics may find it difficult to adjust to the cheerful season. This is also the case for people with neuro-developmental disorders like autism, Asperger’s syndrome, etc. whose disruption in their daily schedules may worsen their mental health symptoms.

Read More About Asperger’s Syndrome Here

Mental Health Conditions Experienced During Christmas
Mental Health Conditions Experienced During Christmas

Mental Health Tips For Christmas And The Holidays

To navigate the holidays better, consider the following 5 Barker P. (2019). The gift of less Christmas stress. The Veterinary record185(23), 736–737. https://doi.org/10.1136/vr.l6952 mental health tips for Christmas:

  • Set realistic expectations and accept the shortcomings and flaws in planning Christmas gatherings and parties.
  • Take into account the tiny instances of joy and happiness of the holidays inherent in spending time with loved ones, Christmas traditions, holiday baking rituals, etc.
  • Establish boundaries with people and things that drain you emotionally. Learn to say “no” to avoid over-committing.
  • Limit or moderate alcohol intake to mindfully take charge of your festivities and social interactions during Christmas.
  • Budget wisely to alleviate procrastination, last minute shopping, and financial stress.
  • Maintain routines and stick to the holiday plan to reduce chaotic disruptions.
  • Prioritize self-care, dedicating time for relaxation and personal well-being amid festive activities.
  • Promote holiday stress management through adequate physical activity, mindfulness and relaxation techniques, meditation, etc.
  • Avoid comparisons and practice gratitude, focusing on positive aspects and appreciating small joys.
  • Seek support from friends or family, if you are experiencing emotional distress.
  • Consult mental health professionals, if the holiday blues at Christmas become overwhelming.

Read More About Mindfulness Here

Support Someone With Mental illness During Christmas
Support Someone With Mental illness During Christmas

Takeaway

The relationship between Christmas and mental health is nuanced, encompassing both joyous moments of celebration and potential stressors. While the holiday season can offer opportunities for connection and positive experiences, it is crucial to be mindful of the associated pressures and emotions, fostering a balanced approach to promote overall well-being during this festive time.

At A Glance

  1. Christmas and mental health are interconnected in multiple ways.
  2. Several factors like holiday trauma triggers, stress, negative thoughts, and social isolation can impact our ability to enjoy Christmas.
  3. Several Christmas movies with mental health messages highlight the association between the celebration and holiday stress and trauma.
  4. Christmas celebrations can heighten mental health comorbidities like seasonal depression, substance addiction, body image issues, PTSD at Christmas, etc.
  5. Mental health tips for Christmas include minimizing holiday planning and budget, drawing social boundaries, self-care, and reveling in the joy of the festive season.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is depression at Christmas common?

Depression at Christmas can be common due to various factors such as heightened expectations, social pressures, and feelings of loneliness.

2. How can I be in a good mood for Christmas?

Being in a good mood for Christmas involves focusing on positive aspects, connecting with loved ones, and managing stress through self-care.

3. How can we prevent Christmas stress? 

Preventing Christmas stress can be achieved by setting realistic expectations, prioritizing self-care, and planning ahead to minimize last-minute pressures.

4. Why can Christmas be the hardest time of year?

Christmas can be the hardest time of year for some due to heightened expectations, financial strain, family conflicts, and feelings of loss or loneliness.

References:

  • 1
    Schneider, E., Liwinski, T., Imfeld, L., Lang, U. E., & Brühl, A. B. (2023). Who is afraid of Christmas? The effect of Christmas and Easter holidays on psychiatric hospitalizations and emergencies-Systematic review and single center experience from 2012 to 2021. Frontiers in psychiatry13, 1049935. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.1049935
  • 2
    Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2011). The christmas effect on psychopathology. Innovations in clinical neuroscience8(12), 10–13.
  • 3
    Hairon N. (2008). How christmas festivities and pressures can damage health and well-being. Nursing times104(50-51), 33–34.
  • 4
    Hofstra, E., Elfeddali, I., Bakker, M., de Jong, J. J., van Nieuwenhuizen, C., & van der Feltz-Cornelis, C. M. (2018). Springtime Peaks and Christmas Troughs: A National Longitudinal Population-Based Study into Suicide Incidence Time Trends in the Netherlands. Frontiers in psychiatry9, 45. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00045
  • 5
    Barker P. (2019). The gift of less Christmas stress. The Veterinary record185(23), 736–737. https://doi.org/10.1136/vr.l6952
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