The “Holiday Blues” Underscore Need for Mental Health Awareness and Self-Care

December 21, 2017

MERCERVILLE, NJ - With the holiday season in full swing during December, many people find that their own experiences of financial and time constraints, navigating interpersonal relationships, and seasonal changes in eating or sleeping habits may not live up to the cultural expectation of a wintertime filled with peace and joy. In a survey conducted by Healthline two years ago, almost two-thirds of respondents reported "very or somewhat" elevated stress levels during the holiday season. Accordingly, many people experience symptoms of depression and anxiety during December, which have become known as the "holiday blues."

The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc. (NJAMHAA) is a trade association representing 160 New Jersey community-based providers of behavioral healthcare services, which can be found in every county statewide and serve 500,000 individuals of all ages each year. NJAMHAA members treat people from all walks of life, and many providers can help individuals who are struggling with feelings of stress or depression during the holiday season and beyond, when necessary. NJAMHAA and its members are on the forefront of breaking down stigma and spreading awareness that struggling with mental health challenges is normal, and that seeking treatment is a sign of strength, not weakness.

"During the winter holiday season, the days are darker, and the pressure people feel is greater," said Debra L. Wentz, Ph.D., President and CEO of NJAMHAA. "Between rushing to buy presents, attending social gatherings, and taking care of family responsibilities, along with potential triggers of depression and anxiety people can experience during the holidays, December is an overwhelming time for many. Symptoms of the holiday blues can include, but are not limited to, loneliness, isolation, trouble concentrating, frustration and fatigue."

NJAMHAA hopes that others can curb the holiday blues this season by following these tips:

Manage your expectations. Often times, many individuals have unrealistic expectations of their holiday season. Setting reasonable goals that can be achieved during this season can help foster greater happiness.

Stick to normal routines as much as possible to avoid unnecessary stress. This includes regular sleeping, exercise, eating, and drinking habits, which are easily disrupted during the holidays, with so many parties, gatherings, family celebrations, and other events.

Be aware of personal mental health needs. Feelings of depression and anxiety can manifest during the holidays (or any time); if they are persistent, they should be taken seriously, since transitory problems can indicate larger underlying mental health conditions or lead to long-term conditions.

Create enough time for self-care. It is necessary to regroup from the bustling season and give yourself time to take care of your own health or expectations during the holidays.

Additional tips for managing stress and staying healthy during the holidays include:

  • Stay in contact with close friends and family.
  • Set limits: If feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed, etc., it's ok to say "no" to an event, or go late and leave early.
  • Set boundaries: Stay away from people, places and things that are not emotionally healthy.
  • Drink responsibly: Do not drink and drive. Know how alcohol affects you because it is different for everyone. Be aware that alcohol is a depressant drug. Read prescription bottle labels to ensure that alcohol will not cause a negative reaction. Remember that it takes about one hour to metabolize a standard drink.

Following these tips during the holiday season (and throughout the year) can help one maintain good overall health and prevent the holiday blues. However, if the holiday blues do not pass, local providers of mental health and substance use treatment can be found at http://njamhaa.org/njamhaa-member-directory.


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