Mental Health and the Holidays

Mental+Health+and+the+Holidays

Charlotte Hoffman, Staff Reporter

For many, the holiday season brings joy, love, visits from family members, and much-needed breaks from work. Festive lights, decorative cookies, and maybe even boughts of snow make this time of the year feel unlike any other. Yet these final months of the year also bring increased amounts of stress, anxiety, and depression. For adults, it can become overly demanding to keep up with office parties, work, and a social life outside of the office. And for students, the second and third weeks of December consist of late nights studying and hefty finals. Green Mountain High School Junoir, Bella Ouellete, remarks in regards to final week, “it is very stressful and takes time away from my after school activities.” And when asked about holiday burnout, she replies, “it can be really stressful to get gifts for your loved ones and get everything done that needs to be done.” Party planning, baking, traveling, gift shopping – it is fun in theory, but when it drags on for two long months many people feel as if they just want the year to be over. “2021 was a hard but fun year, but I have hope that 2022 will be better than ever,” remarks Bella.

The holiday season can also exacerbate symptoms for people with existing mental illnesses. Stress from the holidays makes it harder to maintain good mental health; according to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 64% of people with mental illnesses report the holidays make their condition worse. Depending on the illness, holidays can trigger episodes of mania, depression, hallucinations, and delusions. The holidays can also create obstacles for those struggling with mood or eating disorders. The winter brings darker, longer months, which has often been linked with increased rates of Seasonal Depression. And there is an emphasize on food that could trigger anyone struggling or recovering from an eating disorder. To help cope with these challenges, it is critical to establish boundaries, be realistic, and manage your time well. And surrounding yourselves with a supporting system – whether families, friends, or professionals – that you can reach out to.

The holiday season can feel isolating, lonely, and depressing. Anxiety often builds up surrounding the encroaching holidays – and when coupled with the dreadful feeling that one is running out of time to see family and have a successful year, feelings of holiday burnout quickly emerge. Anyone struggling with a mental health illness often experience worsening symptoms, and even those who look forward to the holidays are inevitably stressed about the endless tasks on their to-do list. Despite the joy often correlated with the holiday season, holiday burnout is very real and can dictate how the last few months of one’s years go. It is critical to prioritize self-care and mental health while shopping, baking, or talking with friends; and it’s key to recognize that feelings of exhaustion, uneasiness, and sadness are not uncommon during this time of the year.