As the holidays approach, many people are looking forward to everything they have to offer: time spent with family and friends, shopping to find the perfect gift, and taking part in traditions that have been part of holiday celebrations for years.
But for others, the holidays can be a difficult time of year, one that can cause them to feel alone, overwhelmed, depressed, sad or anxious.
If feelings like these sound familiar, you’re not alone.
“There are many people who struggle with feelings of loneliness, sadness, or depression and anxiety during the holidays. The environment of cheer and excitement that is so palpable around this time of year that it can be hard to realize that others struggle with it, or to admit that you’re feeling affected by feelings like these,” explains Lauren Napolitano, licensed psychologist at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
This holiday season, help keep negative feelings at bay with these tips from Napolitano.
Learn to say no
Make cookies for the kids’ holiday party? Volunteering to plan a work party? Hosting a dinner with friends in the midst of a busy holiday season? Answering ‘yes’ to every question or offer that comes your way can cause you to feel burned out and stressed very quickly. Learn how to set limits—your time is valuable. Don’t overload yourself with commitment and responsibilities.
Spend time with loved ones
Holiday advertisements often promote time spent with family. But, for many people, family doesn’t have to mean your blood relatives. Whether you have a strained relationship with family members or simply can’t make it home for the holidays, find a way to spend time with people you love, like close friends. Don’t force yourself to attend family parties or events with friends if you feel it might create unnecessary anxiety or put you in a situation you don’t want to be in.
Find time for yourself
Giving is an important theme during the holidays but this season, don’t forget to take, too.
“Setting aside time for yourself to indulge in activities like meditation, gentle yoga, mindfulness exercises, reading, or simply setting aside time in the week where you commit to not making plans is important,” says Napolitano. “It’s an indulgence because few people are willing to afford themselves that time, but it can go a long way in helping keep your spirits high.”
Focus on your health
Instead of sacrificing sleep, exercise, and nutritious food in the name of the perfect holiday celebration, continue to make your health a priority as much as possible. Ensuring that you’re exercising regularly, even if it’s a 30-minute brisk walk or a quick workout DVD, eating well, and getting plenty of sleep can go a long way in helping you feel your best.
Ask for help
Don’t be hesitant to ask for help from loved ones. Work with other parents to coordinate a carpool, ask for help planning a holiday party, split present-buying duties with a partner—these can all help soften the burden of holiday celebrations and planning.
And, if you’re struggling with serious feelings of anxiety, depression, sadness or loneliness, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help from a therapist. While some people may shrug off their feelings, Napolitano encourages asking for help.
“Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Depression is a common disorder, particularly among women, but talking to someone can give you the tactics and resources you need to deal with your feelings and help you cope,” she explains.
Main Line Health is committed to providing a holistic approach to healthcare that includes the mind as well as the body. If you're struggling with feelings of depression, anxiety or loneliness, visit our website to learn more about our behavioral health services.