The Holidays and Mental Health: What You Should Know

Dec 22, 2020

Therapist doing online therapy Telehealth

We’ve all heard that the holidays are the “most wonderful time of the year”, but that’s not always the case for everyone. Most people feel more overwhelmed and stressed out during the holidays than at any other time of the year. When you combine this anxiety-inducing overwhelm of the COVID-19 pandemic, the holiday season this year may be the most stressful of all. And it comes at a time when people are already struggling with their mental health due to the uncertainty, isolation, financial stress, and other outcomes of the pandemic.

Most people don’t consider how the holidays can affect your mental health. The reality is that the “holiday blues” are a real thing, and there are many people who genuinely struggle with their mental health, even during times of joy and spending time with friends and family. But are there really that many people that struggle during the holidays?

If you’re thinking that everyone just seems so happy and joyful during November and December, some statistics may change your mind. A survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that approximately 24% of people with a diagnosed mental illness find that the holidays make their condition “a lot” worse and 40% “somewhat” worse. This is just counting those who have a diagnosed mental illness and not those undiagnosed or have never had any symptoms of mental health struggles in the past.

What causes mental health to suffer during the holidays?

That special time between Thanksgiving and New Years Day is a time of year when many people go out of their way to spend more time with their loved ones and make it a point to think of others. However, the added stress that holidays bring can create quite a bit of additional pressure, overwhelm, and anxiety. There is no other time of the year when we are expected to not only do and be, everything that we already had to, but also add on the tasks that go along with decorating, going to social events, traveling, buying gifts, and just generally having more to do because of the planning and execution of the holiday season.

In fact, even those who have never experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression in the past may have it pop up around an incredibly stressful holiday season. When you tack on the fact that most people are less health-conscious and tend to eat and drink excessively while falling behind on their healthier habits and routines, it can further exacerbate the stress, anxiety, and depression that many people feel around the holidays.

What can be done to reduce stress on mental health during the holidays?

While the “holiday blues” typically end when the holidays are over, it’s essential to pay attention and ensure that any symptoms of mental health issues like anxiety or depression don’t linger past the holidays. Be mindful of how you’re feeling, and keep an eye on anyone you know who struggled through the holidays. Seeking help from a professional at the first signs of any mental health struggles is the best way to ensure that you’re taking care of yourself and getting ahead of any lingering depression or anxiety that began during the holidays.

If you’re looking for solution focused therapy in the Los Angeles area, please get in touch with us at Century City Counseling.