Iowa Specialty Hospital

Holiday Season and Mental Health

December 15, 2022

For many people, Christmas and the holiday season are a happy and joyous time. But for some, the holidays can be very stressful and bring on symptoms of depression and anxiety, or increase symptoms that people are already struggling with. In a study conducted by NAMI, nearly 64% of people with a mental illness reported the holidays make their conditions worse.

What can we do to make the holidays less stressful?
  • We can keep our expectations manageable by trying to set realistic goals, pacing ourselves, organizing our time and making a list and prioritizing the important activities.
  • We can be realistic about what we can and cannot do. We don't need to put the entire focus on just one day. We can remember that it's a season of holiday sentiment, and activities can be spread out to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
  • We can remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.
  • We can do something for someone else by volunteering our time to help others.
  • We can enjoy activities that are free, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations, going window shopping or making a snowman with children.
  • We can try something new and celebrate the holidays in a new way.
  • We can spend time with supportive and caring people.
  • We can reach out and make new friends, or connect with someone you haven't heard from in while.
  • We should also save time for ourselves! We can take time to recharge your batteries and let others share in the responsibility of planning activities.

Mental Health America has a list called “Holiday Bill of Rights” that are a good reminder for how to take care of yourself during the holiday season. It states you have the right to: take care of yourself; feel mixed up emotions around the holidays; spend time alone thinking, reflecting and relaxing; say “no” to party invitations; ask for help and support from family, friends and community service agencies; say “no” to alcohol, drugs…and seconds on dessert; not ride with a drunk driver, to take their keys away and the call a ride for them; give gifts that are within your holiday budget; enjoy your holiday the way you want. 

If you feel like you need more support this holiday season there are ways to reach out. Iowa has a peer run warm line for people who are struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues. It is a telephone based, non-crisis, confidential listening line where people can receive support and an empathetic and nonjudgmental listening. The Iowa Warm Line can be reached at (844) 775-WARM (9276). There is also a crisis line that you can call if you are experiencing a mental health crisis. Your Life Iowa Crisis Line can help provide you with information and referrals, counseling, crisis service coordination, and linkages to crisis screening and mental health services. They also have a mobile crisis response team that can be dispatched 24/7. You can either call (855) 581-8111 or you can text (855) 895-8398.

For support at the national level, you can reach out to these services: 

  • Mental Health America Crisis Text Line provides free, confidential text message support for individuals experiencing emotional distress or crises. It is available 24/7. Text “MHA” to 741-741 for support.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24/7 toll-free lifeline for individuals experiencing emotional distress or crises. Call 988 to talk to a trained listener.
  • Anxiety And Depression Association Of America (ADAA) has an Online Peer-To-Peer Anxiety And Depression Support Group. ADAA’s anonymous peer-to-peer online anxiety and depression support group is a friendly, safe and supportive place for individuals and their families to share information and experiences. As a member of ADAA's online community you can connect with other people experiencing anxiety and depression and related disorders, contribute to ongoing conversations or start your own conversation with a question or a post about your journey.

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