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For some, the holiday season brings a sense of warmth, happiness and holiday cheer. But for others, the season can bring heightened levels of anxiety and stress, and that can lead to a downward spiral for some—especially those with existing mental health conditions.
“For those living with depression or anxiety, the holidays can bring a special set of challenges. Whether it be financial stress, overexertion and fatigue or the missing of a loved one, symptoms of these mental health conditions can be heightened,” says Sarah Davis, M.D., a family medicine physician with Inspira Medical Group Primary Care of Mantua.
“The holidays are a time filled with parties and—frequently—overindulging. For people living with a mental health condition, it can be far too easy to slip into a substance use disorder in an attempt to alleviate anxiety, stress and other symptoms. Making matters worse, roughly 20 percent of people with a mental health condition already have a substance abuse disorder,” Davis states.
Whether for yourself, or for a loved one, Dr. Davis offers the following tips for managing your mental health this holiday season…
Don’t Hide Your Feelings From Yourself
An important step in coping is to first acknowledge your feelings internally. Without doing so, it will be hard to take any next steps in trying to feel better during the holiday season. Once you acknowledge internally how you are feeling, it becomes easier for you to communicate these feelings to trusted and understanding individuals, as well as your primary care provider if necessary. This provides them with an opening to help you.
The holidays often bring schedules packed with trips to see plenty of friends and family. By carefully scheduling out your time, you can make sure you are pacing yourself at a rate of time that you are comfortable with.
Take a Breather
When planning your holiday season, it is important to schedule incremental breaks during each day or occasion. Stepping into another room for a quick five minute breather or stepping outside to catch up with work or other personal items can be a great way to make sure you don’t end up overwhelming yourself.
Set a Budget
More than $465 billion is spent during the holiday season each year, and it can be very easy to spend too much too quickly, exacerbating your anxiety. Start on the right foot by setting a budget to make sure you spend within your means, and don’t allow yourself to become overburdened with the stress of shopping for others and managing your money on-the-go.