It's all too easy to get depressed around the holidays. This year, give yourself the gift of getting help.
While the holidays are often a happy time, they can be tough for many people. A survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that 64% of people said they’re affected by the “holiday blues,” and 24% said it affects them a lot.
You shouldn’t feel bad about feeling bad, but if you do want to try and enjoy the holiday cheer, there are mental health resources you can use and steps you can take to try to improve your mood.
You’ve definitely heard of 911. And you’ve probably heard of 411. But did you know there were other X11 numbers out there for Americans to call? Like 211, which was created back in 2000 to provide callers access to different kinds of local community services. Those services include resources to access food and shelter, especially for those who might have trouble affording them. Relevant to the topic at hand, you can dial a french hen and a partridge in a pear tree twice (that’s 211 in Christmas numbers) to gain access to affordable local mental health resources, like counseling and support groups. It might be known as the season of giving, but there’s no reason it can’t also be the season of asking for help if you need it!
Check this online resource
Mentalhealth.gov has a list of resources for affordable mental health access, including links specifically for veterans. We know nobody likes making phone calls anymore, so this is a way to hopefully get some help without having to—ugh—talk to someone out loud.
Speaking of not making phone calls, there are resources you can text if you want to use your phone to get help but, as mentioned above, you’d rather hide under a rock than have a conversation on the phone.
7 Cups is a resource that lets you text or online chat a therapeutic “listener.” You can choose your listener based on their specialties, expertise, and other characteristics. Whether you just need a quick person to talk to or longer-term help, 7 Cups could be a way to get over the holiday blues, as well as blues you face at other times of year too.
If you’re having a serious emergency situation, you can reach out to the Crisis Text Line. They do warn you on the site that it’s only if you have an urgent need, so while it could be a lifesaver, you should stick to the other links we’ve provided if you’re not at a crisis point.
Small steps each day
In addition to people you’ve never met that you can reach out to, you shouldn’t hesitate opening up to friends and family, if you feel comfortable doing so. There are also steps you can take on your own to try and make the dark days of winter a little brighter.
“Practice acceptance,” suggested therapist Kimberly Hershenson. “Make a list of what you can control in the situation (getting enough sleep, eating well) and what you can’t control (your kid having a temper tantrum). Focus on what you can control to make change and accept what you cannot control.”
And that’s not all!
“Read affirmations every morning. Starting your day with positivity kickstarts your day on the right foot,” advised Hershenson. “Start a meditation practice. Search guided meditation on YouTube or download a free app such as 10% happier (which teaches you meditation techniques).”
One tip Hershenson previously offered to us was about technology before bed: “Turn off the TV, computer, and your phone an hour before bed. Technology stimulates the brain causing our minds to stay active and unable to wind down. Turning off technology allows us to slow down and prepares the body for rest.”
Alisa Kamis-Brinda, psychotherapist and owner of Serenity Solutions Therapy was also a contributor to that previous mental health post. She directed us towards a list of tips she had written on her site for dealing with the holiday blues:
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
- Eat healthy meals and avoid overeating at parties. Fill up on fruits and vegetables and avoid standing near the dessert table.
- Avoid excessive alcohol use. Drink water and other non-alcoholic beverages.
- Exercise for stress management. If you struggle to find time in your schedule for this, park in the furthest spot at the mall and walk an extra 10 minutes while you are there.
- Schedule time for you. Not every minute needs to be filled with shopping, cooking, cleaning, and visiting.
- Say “no” when your schedule is too busy.
- Plan to spend time with positive people and limit time with those who are toxic. Consider volunteering to be around people who care.
- Make a budget and stick to it. It’s not worth it to overspend now and struggle with finances in the new year.
- Be realistic about your expectations regarding how others will behave. Don’t expect Aunt Sally and cousin Joe to get along if they fight every year at the holiday dinner.
- Take pressure off of yourself. It is more important for your mental health to follow the above steps than it is to try to be perfect and get everything done. Prioritize, delegate and give yourself a break.
Giving yourself a break from the phones and the computers every so often is probably a good idea regardless of the time of day. We have constant access to infinite information these days, and much of it can be stressful. You shouldn’t feel bad about taking a break for your own well-being, especially when it comes to something you couldn’t fix anyway.
As Hershenson said above, it’s important to try and focus on the things you can change. Since it is the season of giving, you could even consider volunteering if you’re able to and up for it. It can help you feel like you’re making a positive change in the world and might take your mind off your own problems for a little bit.
Regardless, know that help is always out there. We hope you have a festive and cheerful holiday season, and that the blues don’t get to you too much.
Alisa Kamis-Brinda, LCSW, LCADC,(@SerenityAlisa) owner and primary psychotherapist at Serenity Solutions, LLC, in Philadelphia, PA, helps overwhelmed, stressed out professionals and new moms learn how to slow down anxious and angry thoughts so that they can be in the present moment, relax and enjoy life again.
Kimberly Hershenson (@kimhershlmsw) has worked successfully with clients who have experienced problems such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, personality disorders, and difficult relationships. Her aim is to create a warm, supportive, and safe space for her clients to help achieve their personal goals. She believes that, together, they can work on understanding feelings and behaviors regarding clients’ areas of concern while helping them to practice healthier coping mechanisms in order to fully participate in life.
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