The holiday season can be challenging for anyone, and particularly for those who suffer from mental health conditions. The good news is that, with appropriate preparation and planning, anyone can be better equipped to tackle this exciting time.
Along with some positive changes, the holiday season can bring about extra stress, demands, and expectations. This statement is generally recognized to be true for everyone, but it can feel even more true to those of us who suffer from a mood disorder. Factors like increased social gatherings, personal spending, and travel can be enough to tip the scales for anyone in a vulnerable condition. In fact, in a 2014 study by the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), as many as 64% of people with mental illness reported that the holidays make their condition worse.
Much has been said about how to preserve one’s mental health during this challenging time. We at Pacific Phoenix TMS believe that not enough importance is placed on some of those strategies. Without further ado, here are our top 10 tips to prepare for the holiday season:
- Ahead of the holidays, schedule a checkup with your favorite mental health professional – be it your psychiatrist or your therapist. This will help you to take stock of your current condition and anticipate any "risky" situations headed your way.
- Make sure to have ample supply of any prescriptions that you may take, especially if you are traveling. Don’t risk running out of medications when you’re away from home, or when pharmacies and offices are closed for the holidays.
- Create an action plan in case your mood gets worse. This can include contact information for friends & family, and emergency phone numbers for providers or for mental health hotlines. For example, you can reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline any day, any time simply by dialing 988 from any phone.
- Be aware of your emotions and track your mood. Watch out for symptoms such as increased anxiety, sadness, headaches, body aches, inability to sleep, irritability, fatigue and anger. Check out one of these mood-tracking apps to make the task even easier!
- Plan some buffer time between your errands and commitments to engage in self-care activities or simply to take personal downtime. During a particularly busy and stressful season, it is essential to nurture our emotional health by making time for ourselves.
- If you find it helpful, engage in meditation and/or relaxation.
- Studies conducted on as many as 1.2 million people found a very strong link between exercise and mood improvement. So, plan time in your schedule for exercise, preferably outdoors and during sunlight hours. If you are traveling, you can research walking trails or routes ahead of time, or use the workout facilities at your hotel.
- Celebrate responsibly by avoiding excessive drinking. Alcohol has been shown to exacerbate many mood disorders, so aim not to drink more than usual regardless of what your friends or family members are doing.
- Be realistic and don’t try to please everyone. Many people have unreasonable expectations, particularly around the holidays. Remember that your first duty is to yourself by protecting your own mental well-being.
- Get enough sleep, as lack of sleep can make us more vulnerable to extreme moods.
Here at Pacific Phoenix TMS we have a limited number of appointments still available over the next few weeks. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if we can help you thrive during the upcoming holiday season.