Mental Health And Holidays 

mental health and holidays

Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Mental health and holidays have been associated since time immemorial. A large number of factors like heightened festive expectations, social pressures, and disrupted routines during the holiday season can contribute to fleeting mental health issues collectively known as “holiday blues”. If left unaddressed, holiday blues can negatively impact a person’s mental health, his/her ability to maintain social bonds, as well as capacity to enjoy the celebrations and festivities that come with the holidays.

Causes of poor mental health during the holidays
Causes of poor mental health during the holidays

Signs Of Poor Mental Health During The Holidays

The common signs 1 Andrews L. W. (2002). Handling holiday stress. Diabetes self-management, 19(6), 24–31. of poor mental health during the holidays include:

  • Social isolation from gathering and distancing from loved ones
  • Mood swings and increased irritability
  • Sleep disruptions, including sleeplessness, oversleeping during the holidays, etc.
  • Poor eating habits, appetite changes, and weight fluctuations
  • Anhedonia and a loss of interest in activities enjoyed earlier
  • Persistent fatigue and a lack of motivation
  • Increased substance use as a maladaptive coping mechanism
  • Difficulty focusing or making rational decisions
  • Acute pain related to headaches, stomachaches, etc.
  • Expressions of hopelessness and despair
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Holiday stress, particularly financial stress
  • Christmas PTSD or triggering of traumatic memories related to Christmas

Read More About Self-Harm Here

Holiday Stress And Mental Health In Films

Holiday stress  and mental health issues linked to festivals like Thanksgiving and Christmas are frequently explored in cinema. The cult classic Love Actually (2003) uses a colorful army of characters to explore the interconnectedness of holiday stressors, poor mental health, and fractured relationships during the festive season.

Much like the beloved 1990 film Home Alone, The Grinch (2000) portrays the effect of isolation, loneliness, and holiday blues in mental health contexts. Nearly all adaptations of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol show the long-term impact of unresolved grief and trauma on the protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge.

Mental Health And The Holidays In Statistics
Mental Health And The Holidays In Statistics
Positive vs Negative Impact Of Holidays On Mental Health
Positive vs Negative Impact Of Holidays On Mental Health

The holiday season is often seen as a time of joy and good cheer, but it can also be very stressful and exhausting for some people. Seasonal depressive disorder 2 Munir, S., & Abbas, M. (2022, January 9). Seasonal Depressive Disorder. Nih.gov; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK568745/ , societal expectations for the celebrations, economic pressures, family issues, and the act of relentless socializing can aggravate the holiday blues 3 Baier M. (1987). The “holiday blues” as a stress reaction. Perspectives in psychiatric care24(2), 64–68. .

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 trigger several mental health issues like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, body image issues, low self-esteem, and substance use through activities like relentless drinking, etc.

Read More About Body Image Here

Many people may also relate the holidays to personal losses or past traumatic experiences, which can make them feel more isolated and helpless. Termed as Christmas PTSD 4 Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2011). The christmas effect on psychopathology. Innovations in clinical neuroscience8(12), 10–13. , these experiences may include painful flashbacks and an internalization of negative feelings. Along the same lines, people dealing with grief may find it difficult to adjust to the cheerful seasons. This is also the case for people with neuro-developmental disorders 5 Morris-Rosendahl, D. J., & Crocq, M. A. (2020). Neurodevelopmental disorders-the history and future of a diagnostic concept
. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience22(1), 65–72. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2020.22.1/macrocq like autism, Asperger’s syndrome, etc. whose disruption in their daily schedules may worsen their mental health symptoms.

Mental Health Tips For The Holidays

Consider the following 6 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 the holidays:

  • Keep realistic expectations for the holidays.
  • Reach out to friends and family and connect for support.
  • Create new, stress-free holiday traditions. Do away with the ones that you find negative or emotionally draining.
  • Prioritize self-care, including sleep, healthy eating, and getting an ample amount of exercise.
  • Plan and prioritize tasks (like Christmas shopping or party ideation) to avoid feeling overwhelmed by financial stress, procrastination tendencies, etc.
  • Set boundaries, learn to say no, and prioritize your mental health.
  • Reflect, acknowledge, and accept your feelings—positive or negative.
  • Volunteer to give back to the community and the needy like orphans, the aged in old age homes, economically disadvantaged families, etc.
  • Limit social media and refrain from comparison with others. Celebrate your achievements and of those around you.
  • If struggling, seek therapy to address your worries and negative thoughts.

Read More About Stress Here

Takeaway

Recognizing the interconnectedness of holiday stress and mental health is crucial for promoting awareness and encouraging strategies that prioritize mental health and relationships during the holiday season. By acknowledging these challenges and fostering open conversations, individuals can work towards creating a more supportive and understanding environment during and after the holiday season.

At A Glance

  1. Mental health and holidays have been closely associated since forever.
  2. Signs of poor mental health during the holidays include depressive symptoms, fatigue, social withdrawal and isolation, PTSD, substance use, etc.
  3. Holiday blues in mental health contexts include several mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc.
  4. Issues of mental health and holidays’ scars and trauma, if left untreated, may get prolonged beyond celebrations and the festive season.
  5. Mental health tips for the holidays popularly include self-care, open communication, availing the comfort of support systems, and seeking professional help.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What Are Some Recommended Mental Health Activities For Holidays?

Engaging in relaxation techniques, spending time with loved ones, and practicing mindfulness are recommended mental health activities for the holidays.

2. Can Holidays Relieve Stress?

Holidays can both relieve and induce stress, depending on individual circumstances and how they are celebrated.

3. Why Do People Feel Sad Before And After The Holidays?

People may feel sad before and after the holidays due to unmet expectations, loneliness, or the contrast between idealized festivities and personal experiences.

4. Is It Possible To Enjoy The Holidays Despite Experiencing Stress And Depression?

It is possible to enjoy the holidays despite stress and depression by setting realistic expectations, seeking support, and focusing on self-care.

References:

  • 1
    Andrews L. W. (2002). Handling holiday stress. Diabetes self-management, 19(6), 24–31.
  • 2
    Munir, S., & Abbas, M. (2022, January 9). Seasonal Depressive Disorder. Nih.gov; StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK568745/
  • 3
    Baier M. (1987). The “holiday blues” as a stress reaction. Perspectives in psychiatric care24(2), 64–68.
  • 4
    Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2011). The christmas effect on psychopathology. Innovations in clinical neuroscience8(12), 10–13.
  • 5
    Morris-Rosendahl, D. J., & Crocq, M. A. (2020). Neurodevelopmental disorders-the history and future of a diagnostic concept
. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience22(1), 65–72. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2020.22.1/macrocq
  • 6
    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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