The holidays are a joyful and festive time of the year. Regardless of what religious denomination or what you celebrate, the holiday season is a good one.
It’s a time where friends and families gather and spend quality time together, not to mention eat delicious food.
As much happiness the holidays can bring, that isn’t the case for everyone. Sometimes, the holidays can be particularly tough for folks, and their mental health can take an extra hit. And with the COVID-19 pandemic still underway, this adds an extra layer of tough times.
According to Apicha's Behavioral Health Director, Jun Matsuyoshi, the holidays can be difficult for people who have a tendency to be depressed or anxious. "The holidays will magnify these things and will add to the anxiety and depression that people have."
For LGBTQ+ folks, the holidays can also be a stressful and emotionally difficult time. Reuniting with their family and extended families who aren’t accepting or inclusive of their identities can be tough. So much of a queer person’s safe space is defined by feeling accepted, understood, and included. But when spending time with family members who offer none of those, feeling safe is threatened. If you're spending the holidays away from family, check out these mental health tips to take care of yourself.
Additionally, being around family is not always perfect, which can add to a person's stress during the holidays. But, Matsuyoshi said, there are ways to manage your stress, and any other emotional issues you may be having during the holidays. Here are some tips to help you take care of your mental health during the holidays.
Mental health tips
- Manage your expectations: Sometimes we have expectations on what reuniting with family will be like, and it doesn't always pan out that way. Before traveling home or gathering for a dinner party, check in with yourself about what you're expecting, and remember things may play out differently than you imagined.
- Maintain your daily routine: During the holidays, we tend to indulge ourselves in eating and drinking in excess. It's important to find a balance, and make some room for holiday treats. But keeping a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly will help you stay grounded.
- Exercise: If you already have a regular exercise routine in place, try to stick to it as much as you can. And if you don't really exercise, take yourself for a short, brisk walk. Endorphins are the body's natural mood boosters, can make a difference in how you're feeling.
- Set some time aside for yourself: As mentioned before, the holidays can be stressful. It can be overwhelming to constantly be in the holiday mode, so be sure to give yourself some alone time. Whether that's reading a book, going for a walk, or even getting a massage, nurture yourself.
- Plan ahead: Knowing you have a million things to do in a short time frame can induce anxiety and stress. A good way to avoid that is planning ahead and managing your time. Set a schedule for when and how long you'll be shopping for gifts or cleaning the house, so you are not overwhelmed with everything you have to do.
- Engage with others: Make an effort to catch up with friends and family you're spending time with. Have a meaningful conversation with them, and it will leave the both of you feeling good and appreciated.
Being away from family
Not spending the holidays with your family? Sometimes folks can feel extra lonely when they aren't able to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with their loved ones. There are a few things you can do to make the best of the situation.
- Be with your community: So many people move to New York City from other places and for a ton of different reasons. If you are one of these people, connect with other friends and acquaintances who are staying in the area. Your friends sometimes become your second family, and spending holidays with them can be nice.
- Get outside of your head: A great way to set aside those heavy feelings and even fix them is to do something nice for someone else in need. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or coat drive will help you focus on something other than your issues. And, it is equally rewarding to help someone who may be less fortunate than you, and will remind you to be grateful what you do have.
Another point of concern during the holidays is not being able to get the help you need. Many clinics and doctors will be closed during some days, and that can also induce anxiety. However, there are still resources for those who need them. There are 24/7 hotlines anyone can call, chat, or text with.
- NYC Well: The hotline is available 24/7, and you can call, chat, or text with someone. To do so, call 888-692-9355.
- LGBT National Hotline: To talk, call 888-843-4564.
- Trans Lifeline: To talk, call 877-565-8860.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
Schedule an appointment
Searching for help before and after the holidays? If you'd like to talk to one of our mental health counselors, you can make an appointment here.