Check your Mental Health of course. Predominantly for many there are feelings of great joy; feelings of connectedness, shared love for one another. Most feel connected during the holidays whether it’s to one’s immediate family, others in the community, or just simply feeling connected by participating in our collective national holiday traditions, activities and feel a sense of connectedness this way. Even for those struggling to connect with others during the holidays it can still be a festive time.
And, the holidays can also be a time of great despair if the holidays did not go as planned. Because the holidays have a shared unmistakable theme of “family traditions” it can amount to a painful reminder of unresolved family conflicts or additional stressors.
The biggest misperception occurring this time of year is people may “feel down during the holidays” and after the festivities end, individuals find a way to just “snap out of” whatever stressors may have been present during the holidays.
The holidays have recognizable distinctive markers for the holiday season. Roughly they commence in July, well in advance of Christmas. Closer to November holiday Christmas decorations are on full display, while consumer advertisers are actively in pursuit of your consideration when you’re out and about in town shopping for the holidays. There is holiday cheer and a sense of collectiveness can be felt even if single or alone. It’s truly hard not to get sweep up into it. With the holidays also comes added personal demands and for this many experts, The Mayo Clinic Staff as one source, offer Holiday Coping Strategies to counter any undue stressors felt, or feelings of sadness, grief, Depression. Staying Positive, Managing Expectations, Being Realistic, Taking time to relax, just to mention a few strategies mentioned.
Then, the holiday season concludes in a New Year’s Eve Celebration Spectacular.
After the holidays there is clarity.
It is AFTER the holidays have ended many may feel the most “down,” disappointed or even begin to experience feelings of regret that triggers increased sadness; Depression. This is not to say some do feel Depressed during the holidays, but for clarification statistically over the years individuals are more likely to commit suicide after the holidays when the festivities have ended, and the full gravity of their individual holiday experience is felt. Therefore, it is best to be mindful of how you are feeling after the holidays, and care should be exercised to check in with family and friends if you are concerned about another you feel may have been “feeling down” during the holiday season.
After the holidays, after the excitement has faded and there are no more festive events to attend or participate in, many may begin to evaluate the experience they had. They may question was their level of engagement with family members all they had hoped for? Did they have opportunities to meet with their family? Was it disappointing because the holidays only reminded them of their Grief & Bereavement for those lost?
Unresolved Family Conflicts
Were you alone? Wishing you weren’t?
The greatest thing about human nature is we instinctively crave positive connections with others. When alone or stressed during the holiday season it is easy to engage with others who are in a festive spirit. It’s the holidays! Everyone appears to be in a good and charitable mood. Happy Seasons Greetings are eagerly shared willingly among strangers. It’s also the most popular time of year for many to volunteer time and efforts to those less fortunate or alone. All of these activities, and many more, help curb feelings of social isolation, but after New Year’s Eve the sheer volume of selfless acts of kindness may end too.
After the holidays is also when your financial statements arrive demanding payment for Credit Card charges you may have over extended on during a frenzy to meet families gift giving expectations of you.
Just “struggling through the holidays” can be exhausting. With little to no motivation or energy to fully participate in the holidays can only exacerbate Depressive symptoms.
If you feel you are experiencing symptoms of Depression seek assessment and treatment. Suicidal behaviors usually result from the interaction of several factors. The primary remediable risk factor in suicide is Depression.
Suicide appears to be more common when severe Anxiety is part of Depression or Bipolar Disorder. Also, suicide risk may increase after antidepressant drugs have started.
Other risk factors include the following:
Most other serious Mental Health Disorders
Substance Abuse, Chemical Dependency, Excessive use of Alcohol
Serious Medical physical disorders, especially in the elderly
Unemployment and economic downturns
Traumatic childhood experiences
Learn more about Etiology of Psychiatric Disorders and Suicidal Behavior by Merck Manuals.
Get Help after the Holidays if experiencing:
Continued persistent feelings of sadness, anxiousness, hopelessness. Depressed Mood.
Persistent Physical Complaints. Not otherwise successfully treated by Medical Treatments.
Continued Sleep Disturbances. Inability to sleep, or excessive sleep patterns.
Continued difficulty in performing day-to-day activities or if symptoms begin to interference with employment performance.
If you do not know how to begin start by talking to your Primary Care Physician, or schedule an appointment with a Mental Health professional, Psychologist or Psychiatrist about what you’re experiencing.
Help Yourself Help Others is a great resource to help you get started with self-help online anonymous assessments as well as with locating local Clinics and Hospitals you can visit to have a Mental Health assessment completed in person with a Mental Health professional.
Lastly, let’s take some notes. Ask yourself a few questions:
Get out a sheet of paper or use computer to jot down some Field Notes.
How did I feel during the holidays? How do I feel now that the holidays are over? Am I experiencing any ongoing negative feelings I am not comfortable with? If yes, are these negative feelings affecting performance at work, or interfering with day-to-day activities?
If you are among those that struggled through the holidays, take a moment and reflect on what coping strategy helped you weather through the holidays. Was there an aspect of the holidays you did enjoy? If so write it down. Was there an activity or individual person that made the holidays enjoyable? If so write it down.
Now, once you know what helps, you can engage more time and effort into those targeted “helpful activities and strategies.” If you still feel like you are struggling after the holidays have long gone, the notes you take today may very well be helpful to you year round.
:::: Until Next time: à Donf ::::
Dr. Lawana R. Lofton, PsyD – Psychologist with one simple goal of making concepts of psychology accessible. || Follow on Twitter @lrlofton Read Psychological Précipice: The Psychological Pursuit To Find The Best In You on Amazon. If you have not read it yet, I highly recommend it.