Under the best of circumstances, holidays can be tricky. Perhaps you’re the one playing host and you have a mountain of things to do to get ready. Or, maybe there’s some tension in the family that always flares up around the holidays.
Now throw in an underlying anxiety or mood disorder, like depression, and the holidays become exponentially trickier to navigate. This is a very common experience for millions of people. About 40 million adults are affected by an anxiety disorder in the United States, as well as 21 million adults who are affected by depression.
If you want to emphasize thriving, and enjoying wellness, rather than simply surviving during your holidays, board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Matthew Goldenberg has a few great practices to keep in mind.
Have a plan in place before the holidays
One of the best ways to manage your mental health is to have a plan in place beforehand so you can negotiate the holidays with more confidence and ease. Having a planned exit from stressful situations and planned coping strategies can make all the difference. An often overlooked goal is to plan some scheduled self-care, either before or after a likely stressful holiday event or period of time.
Dr. Goldenberg is based in Santa Monica, California, but he’s able to see patients across California and Alaska thanks to secure telehealth services. During your remote visit with Dr. Goldenerg, he tailors a holiday mental health plan that addresses your unique needs and concerns. During this time, he is an experienced and well-trained psychiatrist who reviews your medications to ensure all your bases are covered.
To give you an idea about the types of strategies and coping skills that you and Dr. Goldenberg might discuss, review the following tips.
Have an out
One of the keys to honoring your mental health needs is to make sure you do not feel trapped at any point during the holidays. It is perfectly okay to leave early or arrive for the second half of an all-day event, to set yourself up for success.
You do not need to engage in every activity over the holidays, nor do you need to be present for every minute of every event. Pace yourself and do what is comfortable for you. Sometimes, the quality of the time you spend is more important than the quantity. This is especially true if the longer you stay, the more you feel you are suffering. If you feel overwhelmed, you can excuse yourself and take a much-needed timeout or break.
If you are running around to make sure everyone else’s needs are met during the holidays, take at least a few well-earned moments to cater to your own wants and needs. These are your holidays, too. So if you want to go for a massage or take a long, hot bath, by all means, treat yourself!
These moments of self-care are important, and they let your mind and body know that you’re listening.
A great mental health practice is to spend time in gratitude, which can keep you from focusing on the negative. For example, each morning when you wake up, think of three things you are grateful for. Then, right before you go to bed, give some thanks for those things that made you feel good during the day, even if it was fleeting. Our mind often drifts subconsciously to perceived failures and flaws. Therefore, taking control of your thinking and focusing on positive and meaningful thoughts and memories can help to lift your mood with a little conscious effort.
Many people with anxiety disorders or mood issues self-medicate with alcohol (or marijuana), which usually only exacerbates their symptoms. This is especially true during the holidays.
Even if substance use is not problematic for you, we suggest you keep drinking and/or using drugs to a minimum. Alcohol might be able to dull your anxiety for a short while, but the anxiety often comes roaring back, stronger than before, once the effects wear off. This could be in the middle of the night or the next day. Worse still, if you overindulge, it can magnify your mental health issues, making them worse.
Of course, there are many other important strategies that can help you get through the holidays while managing your anxiety or mood disorder, and this is where an experienced psychiatrist can help create an individualized plan for you.
For a more personalized and extensive holiday plan, we invite you to contact Dr. Goldenberg. Again, he offers telehealth services, so you can get high-quality mental health care from the comforts of your own home. You can start by scheduling a free, 10-minute phone call with Dr. Goldenberg. Simply click here to set that up.