When we think of the holidays, many of us consider terms like “Christmas cheer” or “the holiday spirit.” But the truth is that for many people, the holidays serve as a reminder of loneliness, sadness, and loss. Depression, anxiety, and grieving can all be exacerbated by the holiday season. In fact, New Year’s Day, just after the holiday season concludes, is the most common day for people to commit suicide. In this guide, we’ll tell you what you need to know about providing mental health services during the holiday season.
Causes of Holiday Mental Health Struggles
There are many reasons people may feel blues around the holidays. Some of those triggers include:
- Anxiety about money: The holiday season is associated with gift-giving and spending, and a large portion of people even put themselves into debt over the holidays. When the holiday is over, this debt can feel crushing.
- Loneliness and loss: The association between holidays and family togetherness can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and grief with people who have lost loved ones, including spouses or children. Parents may also feel an increased sense of loneliness if their children choose not to come home for the holidays or to spend the holidays with their in-laws.
- Poor choices: As mental health professionals, we know that diet and exercise are important contributing factors to depression and anxiety. The holidays are usually filled with sweet snacks and limited exercise, which can worsen underlying mental health conditions.
- Tense family relations: Not all families get along perfectly. The holidays promote family togetherness, but in families where relationships are strained, this can add to feelings of anxiety and stress.
- Seasonal depression: The holidays happen to fall in the middle of winter. Seasonal depression occurs based on limited exposure to sunlight and Vitamin D and can coincide with the holiday season.
Helping Clients Through the Holiday Season
Knowing that your clients may struggle with the holiday season can help you provide treatment options to help them work through it. Here are some tips for helping your clients through the holiday season.
- Practice boundary-setting: A portion of holiday anxiety is caused by inappropriate boundaries around money and family. Practice working through these issues within the safety of your office to prepare clients for when these issues crop up.
- Offer holiday hours: If you can, increase your availability just after the holidays, and especially on New Year’s Day. You can even offer an open house with healthy snacks to give clients a reason to get out of their homes and enjoy themselves on New Year’s Day.
- Discuss holidays as a trigger: Some clients may feel guilty talking about depression or anxiety symptoms related to the holidays. Make your office an open space to work through these feelings by opening the discussion of holidays as a potential trigger for anxiety, depression, or stress.
Within the mental health field, the holidays often have a different connotation than they do in other careers. By being prepared, you can set your clients up for success. Accelerated Resolution Therapy can be a great way to help clients retrain their brains and reset triggers associated with the holidays. Contact Colleen E. Clark today to get started learning about ART>