Mental Health in the Holiday Season


A depressed woman by Christmas Tree | Image by Shutterstock

Dr. Kenleigh McMinn, a clinical psychologist with Baylor Scott & White Health, recently offered tips in a CBS News feature for coping with mental health during the holidays, a season that can induce depression and anxiety for some.

Dr. McMinn said that one way to safeguard your mental health is by establishing firm and clear boundaries with your family.

“It can be really hard,” Dr. McMinn sympathized. “Often times we don’t want to hurt feelings, we don’t want to step on toes, but I think it’s really important to figure out how you can protect your time, especially around the holidays.”

She suggested discussing specifics of the holiday in advance, such as how much your family plans to spend on gifts, how much time you’ll spend with them, and who will be hosting.

Another cause of stress for many people is travel, especially when other family members are involved.

“It’s one of those things that I think is especially challenging because so much of it is out of our control,” Dr. McMinn said.

Dr. McMinn suggests focusing on what you can control, such as timing, packing ahead of time, and generally planning ahead.

If you are struggling with grief or the loss of a loved one this holiday season, know that you are not alone. Dr. McMinn said the best thing you can do is to honor the memory of your loved one.

Consider “[i]ncluding them in a prayer or a toast,” she said. “Something to acknowledge that their presence is still felt and is still missed, I think, is a really important piece to try to find that balance between you acknowledging that they’re gone, but still enjoying the holiday season as much as you can.”

Another prevalent issue faced by people during the holidays is seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that tends to hit during the winter months. One way to help, according to Dr. McMinn, is to try to stay as active as possible; try to catch some sunlight outdoors, weather permitting.

In matters that are out of your hands, do your best to destress. She recommends activities that will help you to calm down, such as taking a walk, listening to music, or taking deep breaths.

Yet it is also important to distinguish between a passing moment of the blues and something more serious. “If you’re finding that the symptoms that you’re having are really debilitating, really interfering with your day-to-day life, it’s also important to reach out to a mental health professional,” Dr. McMinn said.

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