Unwrapping the Layers: Navigating Mental Health Through the Holiday Blues

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Are the holidays really “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”?

According to the American Psychological Association, 49% of U.S adults say their stress increases more so around the holiday season than compared to other times throughout the year. 43% said it even affects their ability to enjoy the festivities.

But how do we even stress out in a time that is supposed to be one of the happiest? 

There is no denying that the holidays can be a happy time. It’s a great time to spend with the people you love and celebrate the plethora of holidays that come with the last two months of the year. But with those holidays comes a lot of stress of things that need to be done in order to enjoy those holidays. 

“It definitely is more stressful than any other time of the year for me because of all the things that need to be done for the holidays,” said Sophia Pinon, a recent graduate of Fresno State. “Between the financial strain of buying gifts, spending time with family and friends, and decorating, sometimes it feels like I need to find time to just relax and breathe.”

Pinon said it was even worse when she was in school because she also had to think about things like finals and final projects on top of it all.

“I also feel like the internet gives unrealistic expectations of what the holiday season should be like,” Pinon continued. “Like the extravagant gifts you should buy your family and the type of decorations you should use to decorate your house with. It makes you feel like you should live up to the pictures and videos you see on the internet.”

In addition to everything Pinon said, there is just a lot of anxiety that surrounds the holidays.

I have struggled with anxiety on and off for all of my teenage years, and one thing I noticed is my anxiety tends to flare up around the holidays. 

According to a survey conducted by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), 64% of individuals who have existing mental health conditions, reported that their conditions such as anxiety and depression worsen over the holidays.

This is known as the Holiday Blues. 

I have had my own experience with the “holiday blues”. It happened one year when I got my first job. I was so excited to buy my family and friends Christmas gifts. The one weird thing about it though was I was really anxious and depressed for no apparent reason. Christmas is my favorite holiday, so it was really strange to me that I was feeling that way. I then discovered that it was all due to the holiday blues. 

The holiday blues are a feeling of sadness, anxiety, and stress that last throughout the holidays.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that symptoms of the “holiday blues” include feeling worried or anxious, depression, irritable mood, difficulty concentrating, and loss of pleasure in doing the things that you normally enjoy. 

But even in the midst of the chaos that comes with the holidays, it is important to know that feelings are only temporary and you can do things to improve your mood and overall mental health. 

Although it may seem difficult to find time especially during the holidays, it is really important to spend some time for yourself and do some things you enjoy. Whether it’s reading a book, painting, watching a movie or listening to some of your favorite music, it can reduce your stress levels significantly. 

Another thing you can do for yourself that is good for the entire year, not just the holidays, is to set realistic expectations for yourself. It is okay to not be so perfect all the time and only accomplish the things that you absolutely have to do. Once you set realistic expectations, you will be more likely to achieve your goals. You don’t have to overachieve to be successful.

If you notice that the feelings of the “holiday blues” aren’t getting better, there is always the option to talk to a health professional. You can call the SAMHSA National Hotline at 1-800-662-4357 for more support and information about treatment facilities in your area. 

Pamela Martinez (she/her/hers)

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