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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

written by Liza Bennigson, Content Marketing Manager CHC

hands holding coffee-247835It’s hard to escape it: Christmas tunes on every radio station, snowflake cups at Starbucks, pine trees atop every other SUV. “It’s the hap-happiest season of all,” right?

Not necessarily. For many, the holidays amplify insecurities, social anxiety, financial stress, loved ones lost, or the fact that they can’t just “snap out” of their angst with a grande peppermint latte. What if the holiday party invitations aren’t flowing in? What if reading your son’s letter to Santa makes you wonder how you’ll pay the mortgage this month? And how can those primped and professional holiday cards not make you feel inadequate?

The holiday season can shine as much light on what we are lacking as what we are fortunate to have. And when we have plenty but are still not content, there’s a real conflict. Asking people who struggle with anxiety and depression to “be of good cheer” can feel more like a slap in the face.

“Depression and anxiety aren’t feelings that we can turn on and off at will,” says Dr. Ramsey Khasho, Chief Clinical Officer of CHC. Ugly sweaters and social media feeds filled with joyful holiday moments can exacerbate symptoms, by making those who struggle feel more alone and less understood. Add overspending, exhaustion, gloomy weather, poor food choices, infinite shopping lists, binge drinking, and family drama, and it’s no wonder why one can feel overwhelmed.

Sound familiar? Whether you have been officially diagnosed with anxiety or depression, or the holiday blues feel like those uninvited house guests who won’t go away, you’re not alone. In case Martha Stewart’s Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season (i.e., “Strategize Gift Wrapping!”) don’t exactly do the trick, here are a few of our own:

  1. Manage expectations. It’s OK if you don’t experience the same sense of unbridled joy during the holidays that you did as a child. Accept and own your reality, without comparing it to anyone else’s, or your own past experiences.
  2. Do good. Volunteering can help ameliorate feelings of loneliness by increasing social interaction, mindfulness and self-confidence. Can’t squeeze the soup kitchen into an already hectic schedule? Donate a pair of pajamas or a warm coat to those in need.
  3. Take care of yourself. “Take time taking care of YOU!  Do something you enjoy, connect with someone you care about or do something to honor the memory of someone you have lost,” says Jenna Borrelli, LCSW at CHC. Get outside, get some exercise, stick to your routine, eat right and get plenty of rest. (Remembering self-compassion on the days you don’t).
  4. Seek help. Sometimes the holiday blues are indicative of something more. To ensure short-term feelings of distress don’t become long-term ones, consider reaching out to a professional. In crisis? Reach a trained professional at Crisis Text Line 24/7 by texting 741-741 from anywhere in the U.S.
  5. Stay alert. Teens may be especially vulnerable this time of year, since they may not be able to see the light at the end of the holiday tunnel. Not sure if your teen’s angst is something to be concerned about? Keep an eye out for warning signs, and receive a free 30-minute care consultation from CHC by calling 650-688-3625.

It doesn’t have to be the “most wonderful time of the year” for everyone, and it’s okay to feel like Ebenezer Scrooge sometimes. But while “Mastering a Basic Cookie Dough” might improve Martha’s mood, we suggest self-compassion, self-care, and knowing when to ask for help.

Liza Bennigson is the Content Marketing Manager at CHC, providing education and mental health services for children, teens and young adults.

Do you need someone to talk to? CHC Care Coordinators can arrange a free 30-minute Care Consultation so you can explore options with an expert. Call or email our Care Coordinators at 650.688.3625 or careteam@chconline.org to set up an initial Consultation appointment.

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