Time for the holiday season to start – the stretch between Thanksgiving through New Years. Although often depicted on television and in social media as the most wonderful time of the year, the holidays are often full of stress, depression, and anxiety for many.
The holidays can be a difficult time of year for some people and can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, and sadness, especially for those with limited family connections. Some medical professionals attribute the primary cause of holiday depression and anxiety to unrealistic expectations.
Dr. Judith Akin, Medical Director of Commercial Behavioral Health at Blue Cross/Blue Shield, says “People need to have realistic expectations of the holidays. The media has shaped our perception of the ideal holiday, and it’s not a sustainable picture. We often see images of the Hallmark holiday with beautifully set tables, and people smiling and laughing, and life is not a picture.”
She recommends a few practical tips that can help to minimize the stress:
- Be realistic. Keep expectations in balance by not trying to do as much, and look for happiness in what you can accomplish.
- Avoid conflict. During gatherings, avoid conversation topics of apparent conflict and try to find common ground.
- Set a spending limit. Don’t overspend on gifts or entertaining. Be sensitive to those with financial challenges.
- Get organized. Make lists or a calendar to keep track of tasks and events.
- Stay on schedule. Keep a regular sleep, meal, and exercise schedule.
- Take time for yourself. Take a walk, get a massage, recharge your batteries. Taking care of yourself will help to alleviate stress.
- Seek support. Talk about your concerns to family and friends. Getting things out in the open can help you work towards a solution.
For those celebrating the holidays alone, Dr. Akin suggests:
- Plan ahead. Fix a special meal or get some special takeout.
- Enjoy non-traditional holiday fun. Go for a long walk, go to the movies, spend the day on an art or house project.
- Be proactive. Let co-workers and friends know that you are alone; often an extra person at a holiday gathering can make it more fun for everybody.
- Check online for local agencies that need help and give part of your day to help others.
- Reach out. If you can’t be there in person, connect with family and friends by phone, email or text and pass along love and good wishes.
Dr. Akin adds, “Regardless if you are spending the holidays with friends and family or alone, focus on the purpose of the holiday and what is the real meaning. Be mindful of people who are not in a good place; they may be in situational stress or major life changes. The holidays are an Ideal time to reach out and surround those people with love and inclusion. That’s where our “feel good” comes from.”
Often feelings of depression and anxiety become more than the “holiday blues.” Depression and anxiety are serious mental illnesses that can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and decrease a person’s ability to function, and may require professional help. At Pasadena Villa, we have multiple levels of care available to provide the right level of support to meet the specific needs of each client. In addition to using a variety of evidence-based therapies, we use Pasadena Villa’s Social Integration ModelTM to treat individuals suffering from cognitive, emotional, and social disorders, including depression and anxiety. Social integration allows our therapist to observe our residents as they interact in recreational, social and life strategy activities within the community. Observing them in real life situations helps to ensure customized treatment plans are as accurate and effective as possible. Social integration has been a successful tool in helping our residents assimilate back into everyday life and reach the highest level of functioning possible.
The holidays should not become something we dread. Taking steps to prevent additional stress can help combat triggers before they lead to a more serious condition. With planning and some positive thinking, you can enjoy your holiday season.
If you or a loved one have questions regarding depression, anxiety, or another mental illness, Pasadena Villa can help. You do not have to face this challenge alone. Call us at 407-574-5190 or complete our contact form to help with the next steps. Pasadena Villa currently offers treatment at two residential locations in both Orlando, Florida and Knoxville, Tennessee that also have outpatient treatment and transitional living support. In addition, Pasadena Villa has outpatient services in Raleigh, North Carolina offering outpatient and transitional living accommodations.