The holidays are marketed as magical, relaxing, spiritual, or religious traditions. For many people, no matter the holiday you celebrate, it can be a season of joy with family and friends. However, for many people, the holidays can be taxing with financial, emotional, mental, and physical stress. It is important to recognize and implement personal financial, emotional, and physical boundaries during the holiday and winter seasons. Moreover, for people where the holidays are a joyous event, to be cognizant, understanding, and empathetic toward people who may need extra support and/or do not experience holidays in the same way.
Winter holidays can be especially difficult for many people, naturally, because of shortened daylight, demanding work schedules, the cold, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD – an apt acronym – “is thought [to be developed] because shorter days and less daylight may trigger a chemical change in the brain leading to symptoms of depression” (The Johns Hopkins University, 2023). While SAD is common for many people during the winter season, it does not mean that every person will develop a diagnosable depression. However, understanding how the environment affects individual mental health can provide context, reasoning, or even relief for many.
Mental Health Management
There are many ways to stay safe and healthy during the holiday and winter seasons. If you have access to mental health care, seek out weekly or biweekly services with a trained mental health professional. It is important to learn coping skills, conflict resolution or problem-solving skills, distress tolerance, and emotional regulation skills. Moreover, therapy is a safe space to discuss issues that may arise with the holidays and winter weather.
If therapy services are not within access, there are many things you can do for yourself and with support. A few examples of healthy emotional management include journaling, guided self-help books, exercise, eating nutritious foods that fuel your body (while balancing with some fun foods – like your favorite sweet or savory foods), warm showers, and healthy sleep cycles. Moreover, it can be beneficial to talk with your doctor about taking Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 to supplement while we have a lack of sun.
As I talked about before, boundaries during the holidays are crucial for mental health. “Boundaries are defined rules or limits that someone establishes to protect their security and wellbeing around others” (8 Tips on Setting Boundaries for Your Mental Health – DBSA, 2021). Please click the link for more examples of useful boundaries if you don’t know where to start.
We cannot control others, however, we can protect our emotions, and remove ourselves from situations that do not serve us.
8 Tips on setting boundaries for your Mental Health – DBSA. (2021, October 6). Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. https://www.dbsalliance.org/support/young-adults/8-tips-on-setting-boundaries-for-your-mental-health/
The Johns Hopkins University. (2023). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/seasonal-affective-disorder
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