It’s not a secret the holidays are stressful. Between family gatherings, shopping for and affording gifts, and the change in the seasons, it’s common for people to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and even depressed. While this time of year is often associated with love and happiness, these unpleasant feelings and behaviors can creep in. So, what can you do if the holidays (or the rest of the year) is affecting your mental health?
What is stress?
Let’s start with what stress is. The Mayo Clinic defines it as “a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life.” There is such a thing as good stress that helps motivate you, but there is also bad stress that pushes you beyond your ability to cope. Our brains have a sort of alarm system that we’re born with to help protect us. When we perceive a threat, that part of the brain signals your body to release hormones that increase our heart rate and raise our blood pressure, commonly known as a “fight-or-flight” response. Once the threat is gone, our bodies should return to a relaxed state, but modern life often complicates our responses, and sometimes people’s alarm systems don’t shut off.
This is where stress management tools come into play. They can help your mind and body adapt, so you’re not always on high alert. Stress can be damaging to your health and your relationships, so it’s helpful to arm your arsenal with stress management techniques.
There are holistic approaches to reducing stress, which take into account physical, mental, social, and spiritual factors. These include activities such as exercise, meditation, getting a good night’s sleep, journaling, practicing breathing exercises, spending time with friends and family, practicing yoga, and eating a healthy diet. These techniques are factors of a healthy lifestyle and thus play a role in reducing your stress naturally.
A few helpful stress management apps
There are also apps that can assist you in stress management right at your fingertips. Breathe2Relax provides information on stress, how it affects the body and helps you learn to manage stress through diaphragmatic breathing exercises. Calm helps you find less stress and better sleep. Headspace is an app that makes meditation simple. Center Meditation Timer provides you with distraction-free meditation, insights, and tips.
But when stress and anxiety become too much, there are plenty of resources available for you to seek the help you or your loved ones need. Let me preface this by saying I’m not a mental health professional. This is not meant to be prescriptive. It’s always recommended that you contact your doctor or mental health professional for medical advice. This is a simply a list of resources to assist you if you or someone you know needs to talk to someone this holiday season.
If you’re looking for someone to talk to
Psychology Today’s website has a myriad of resources to help you on your journey. Whether you’re looking for a therapist, a psychiatrist, a support group, a treatment center, or even teletherapy, they can point you in the right direction. They also have numerous resources available to inform and educate you about mental health.
If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a quick rundown. A therapist is a licensed medical professional that can evaluate, diagnose, and treat emotional and mental disorders. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that specializes in mental health, including substance use disorder. They use medications, talk therapy, and other treatments to treat mental health conditions. A support group is when a group of people meets to share personal experiences, feelings, coping strategies, and firsthand experiences about diseases or treatments. A treatment center is a healthcare facility that provides therapy for mental and behavioral conditions (sometimes referred to as rehab). Teletherapy refers to mental health counseling that takes place online or over the phone.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is also a wealth of knowledge to learn more about mental health and to connect you with more specific information based on your needs. They also offer the NAMI HelpLine, a free, nationwide peer-support service that provides information, resource referrals, and support to people living with mental health conditions, their family members and caregivers, mental health providers, and the public. You can contact the NAMI HelpLine Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST by calling 800-950-NAMI (6264), or you can send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, if you’re dealing with an emergency situation, call 911.
Other helpful resources
The holidays affect us all differently. It’s OK to seek help for you or someone you know. Here is a list of resources should you need them.
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- Attention Deficit Disorder Association
- Child Mind Institute
- Children’s Health Council
- Crisis Text Line
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- Gamblers Anonymous
- Gift From Within
- Hope of Survivors
- International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation
- Mental Health America
- Narcotics Anonymous
- National Child Traumatic Stress Network
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
- National Eating Disorders Association
- National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health
- National Sexual Assault Hotline
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Overeaters Anonymous
- Postpartum Support International
- SAMHSA’s National Helpline
- Sober Living America
- The Compassionate Friends
- The Trevor Project
- Treatment Advocacy Center
- Veterans Crisis Line