We’re heading into the holiday season which, for some people, is their favorite time of year to visit family, decorate and participate in different festivities. For many, though, it is a time of stress and loneliness.
According to a study from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 64% of people with mental illness report that holidays make their condition worse. For instance, for individuals with bipolar disorder, stress might trigger episodes of mania or depression. And among people living with schizophrenia, stress can result in increases in hallucinations and delusions.
It’s not a coincidence that people are on edge or feeling overwhelmed this time of year. There are a host of stressors that contribute to mental health struggles, including returning home to reminders of difficult memories, visiting immediate or extended family you haven’t seen in a while, colder and gloomy weather, the financial burden of holiday gift shopping and physical exhaustion from holiday-related errands and obligations.
These stressors don’t only exacerbate mental health challenges for individuals with diagnosed mental health problems — they can also create short-term issues for people who don’t otherwise struggle emotionally.
Some of the most common symptoms of stress identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include difficulty concentrating and making decisions, difficulty sleeping, changes in energy and interests, physical reactions such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems and skin rashes, and feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness or frustration.
But overcoming the holiday blues is not as simple as identifying symptoms. Often, the hardest part is developing and implementing coping strategies that will enable you to function during the stress of the holidays and receive the help you need from loved ones and mental health professionals.
So, what do coping mechanisms look like, and how can you practice them on a day-to-day basis? Here are a few strategies that have been proven to help tremendously with alleviating and addressing stress and mental health obstacles:
1. Identifying Triggers: You must recognize what personally causes stressful situations so that you can better prepare yourself for them. This may take time and a great deal of self-awareness, but once you’ve learned to identify your triggers, you’ll be in a much better position to avoid those triggers or respond to various stressors as they arise.
2. Setting Boundaries: Setting boundaries is a healthy way to honestly communicate your needs and feelings to those around you, while also accepting that you can only control your role and behavior in relationships. Setting a boundary might mean saying no to something that makes you uncomfortable or asking for space from a friend or loved one when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
3. Practicing Relaxation Exercises: Making time for relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing, mindfulness meditation and progressive muscle relaxation, has proven to show results in reducing stress and helping individuals who are suffering from anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses.
4. Seeking Therapy: Lastly, speaking with an appropriate medical professional can provide you with a clinical perspective on factors that may be triggering your stress, and help you put an action plan in place to confront those challenges in healthy and constructive ways.
Through MyAdvisor’s 27 holistic wellness services, a few of which include stress management sessions, fitness care coordination and healthy relationships and debt management, we are able to provide individuals with tools and coping strategies to navigate daily stressors and obstacles.
Our team of certified care coordinators, made up of licensed clinical social workers, nutritionists, fitness professionals and other medical mental health professionals, is here to help you get to the root of your mental health struggles and live your best quality of life.
To learn more about MyAdvisor’s services and how we can help you navigate stress during the holiday season and year-round, visit https://www.threewiresys.com/myadvisor.