Mental Health and the Holidays

The Winter Holidays are a time of anticipation and meaning for many. They remind us of our family traditions, and an array of expectations. This year, we have an unwelcomed visitor, COVID-19. It has influenced our lives for the past nine months and will also change our holiday celebrations.

For those who suffer from clinical depression or who grieve for loved ones lost, these holidays can magnify the impact of isolation experienced during the pandemic. Here are five coping strategies for navigating this holiday season:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings:  Despite expectations, you don't have to feel "merry and bright." If you are depressed, anxious, stressed, or grieving, be authentic; let people you care about know how you are really feeling. 
  2. Connect with those who give you support: Research shows that social support can help ward off the effects of stress on depression, anxiety, and other health problems. Friends, family, and professionals provide different forms of emotional support. If there are stressful topics, like politics or the coronavirus, ask them to limit talking about them when you need a break. There are also some practical support resources that can help (for example, United Way 211).
  3. Be realistic this year: We are in the middle of a global pandemic. Your holiday plans may look different this year, but you can find ways to celebrate the season. The holidays don't have to be just like last year or the way they are portrayed on the Hallmark Channel. Remember, the spirit is about sharing and caring.
  4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Don't forget the importance of daily exercise, sufficient sleep, a nutritious diet, managing stress, limiting alcohol, and taking in the good. Appreciate the little things and express gratitude to others.
  5. Self-Care is not optional: It is necessary! We need a break from constant stress. Take at least 10 minutes every day to engage in pleasurable activity that gives you a diversion from your worries. Set attainable well-being goals. This might be exercise, meditation, a gratitude journal, prayer, gardening, cooking, connecting with others, music, leisure reading, journaling, sleep, or any activity that restores you.
  6. Accept help if you need it: Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling depressed, irritable, anxious, feeling hopeless, and/or unable to face the day. If these feelings persist, talk to your doctor, a mental health professional, a support group, or a call center. Put the suicide hotline phone number (800-273-8255) and Middle Tennessee Crisis Call Center (615-244-7444) in your phone contacts and post them on your refrigerator.

If you find yourself becoming clinically depressed or struggling with how to cope, contact Work/Life Connections-EAP to set up a confidential appointment with one of our EAP Counselors by calling 615-936-1327.