It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
At least that’s a common sentiment. But for many, the holiday season can bring forth feelings that aren’t necessarily joyful. Here at Balanced Black Girl, we understand that while this time of year can be perfect for getting together with friends and family, it can also be filled with anxiety, feelings of sadness, and even dread for some of us. It’s imperative that we hold space for the different emotions that can come up during this season. It is my hope that this guide can provide some helpful advice if you’re someone that finds this time of the year especially challenging.
Let’s start by addressing ‘the elephant in the room’ as they say. We have spent the last almost two years in a heightened state of stress due to the pandemic. While we aren’t in the darkest days anymore, the collective trauma we have all experienced cannot be ignored. For some, this year will be the first holiday season without their loved ones. Additionally, for those of us living with mental illness, the effects of the past year coupled with holiday stress can make life feel overwhelming. To help you navigate the complicated emotions that arise this time of year we have created a list of five tips to help you look after yourself this holiday season.
Statistics Regarding Mental Health and the Holidays
We did some research to provide stats regarding mental health holiday stress and anxiety to give a more in depth understanding of why coping techniques are more important than ever for this season. A 2020 survey conducted by the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) revealed that:
- 24% of people living with a mental illness found that the holidays made their symptoms “a lot worse.”
- 40% of people living with a mental illness found that the holidays made their symptoms “somewhat worse.”
- Roughly 755 respondents reported that the holidays added to them feeling sad or dissatisfied.
- 68% felt financially stressed.
- 66% felt lonely.
- 63% experienced too much pressure.
- 57% felt there were unreal expectations.
- 55% found themselves remembering happier times in the past, comparing them with their present.
- Nearly half could not be with their loved ones.
I don’t know about you, but reading those stats actually had me feeling less alone. We are all struggling in some form or the other with managing our emotions this season. The data provides a look into how folks feel around the holidays, but the cause of these feelings can vary. We have some insights and practices that may be able to help you get through the holidays feeling more whole.
Factors that Play Into Holiday Stress and Anxiety
- Too many commitments
- Unmet or unrealistic expectations
- Feelings of obligation
- Comparing your situation to others on social media
- Over indulging in drugs or alcohol
- Too much pressure placed upon yourself
- Not being able to afford the type of holidays you envisioned
5 WAYS YOU CAN PUT YOUR WELLBEING FIRST THIS SEASON
1. Take on fewer commitments.
No is a full sentence, no thank you can also be used. But the point is you don’t have to do things just because it’s the holidays. Don’t ever feel obligated to participate in something or see someone because it’s a certain season. if that event will drain your energy, or if seeing that person doesn’t feel good (even if that person is your mom or dad) don’t do it. We encourage you to keep this sentiment year around.
2. Release some of the pressure for yourself.
There is a special kind of freedom associated with just letting yourself ‘be’ as you are. Find peace knowing your support system will love and care about you no matter what. You don’t have to feel the pressure of society on how you should engage with the world. If you didn’t mail that card in time, it’s ok the recipient will be happy you thought of them, even if they get it after the holiday. You weren’t able to make that event? It’s ok there will be more events. Don’t beat yourself up. Be as flexible with yourself as you are with others.
3. Log off of social media.
Remember social media is literally a highlight reel of people’s lives. This can be especially hard to see during the holidays. Seeing your favorite influencer get surprised with a new car, or receive that luxury handbag you’ve always wanted may have negative effects on your psyche. Learn how to identify the feelings of envy or jealousy: did you tense up when you saw the feed post? Do negative thoughts invade with negative thoughts when you came across a post of a friend with their family? LOG OFF, go for a walk, and write down a list of what you are grateful for. Removing the triggering content and redirecting your energy is a great way to become more grounded.
4. Reconnect with your inner child.
Remember those magical feelings and butterflies we used to get as children around this time of the year? No matter what was going on in the world we had this uncanny ability to see the joy. That feeling can be hard to obtain as an adult. It’s more challenging to live in the moment when we can feel crushed by our societal responsibilities. This year I encourage you to do something that you would have done as a child to generate that magic. Drink some hot cocoa and turn on a holiday movie that you know you loved, take time off and go look at the twinkling lights around your neighborhood. Have a dance party, or even break out a coloring book. It may sound ridiculous but nurturing your inner child will not only help you cope with stress but it will also ignite those feelings that remind you that there’s still light in the world.
5. Lean into your gratitude practice.
I’m definitely not saying that if you struggle emotionally during the holidays it means you aren’t grateful. What I am saying, is it’s proven that gratitude practices can help increase resilience, improve overall well-being, strengthen social relationships, and reduce stress and anxiety. When we focus on gratitude it helps drown out the noise of what we don’t have. Start with a journal, every day write down something or someone you are grateful for. Keep doing this and when you are feeling down, reflect on the previous entries. Remind yourself that your life is full of love.
SOME ADDITIONAL WAYS TO STAY BALANCED THIS BUSY SEASON
- Establish a meditation practice– Staying present helps us worry less about what we can’t control. Don’t know where to start? Check out this wonderful guided meditation from the Balanced Black Girl podcast for stress relief.
- Move your body – Exercise is so much more than a way to keep our physical appearances up, working up a sweat allows us time for reflection and allows space for restoration.
- Be mindful of how much alcohol you are consuming – The holiday season is a notorious time for over indulging, remember that you can have fun without going overboard. Alcohol is a depressant and too much of it can trigger your anxiety and cause more harm than good.
- Let it out – Sometimes you just have to cry and scream and be in your feelings. This is absolutely okay, and healthy.
WE HOPE YOUR HOLIDAYS INCLUDES MORE LIGHT AND JOY THIS YEAR
It is understandable that this time of year can bring up holiday stress and anxiety. If you can, surround yourself with people you love. I promise you that they don’t care about what you can buy them. Get together for dinner, go for a walk, share words of affirmation with each other. Community is so integral to our wellbeing, and so is togetherness, as human beings we really do need each other for survival. That doesn’t mean stretching yourself thin! Take space for some quality ‘you’ time this season as well, your cup will be full, therefore allowing for more meaningful interactions with your community of choice.
We hope our five tips for coping with holiday stress and anxiety has helped provide some actionable advice that you can take, remember you aren’t alone and your feelings are valid.