If the holidays aren’t the most wonderful time of the year

Published on December 21, 2015

For many of us, the winter holiday season, stretching from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, contains anxiety, stress and loneliness rather than celebration. The contrast between the greeting card version of the holidays and our actual lives can be difficult. In addition, our usual support networks may be busy, on vacation, out of town or otherwise unavailable. We may experience financial strain, the pain of being separated from loved ones and the pressure of trying to get everything done.

Here are some tips that might help you cope with holiday stress:

  • Manage your expectations. Pace yourself. Pay attention to what is really important and let those home-baked cookies or some other task wait for next year. 
  • Limit your alcohol intake. There can be more opportunities than usual to indulge or over-indulge. If you are in recovery, temptation may seem to surround you. Now is a good time to attend extra support meetings and to plan how you will manage those parties and open houses. 
  • Acknowledge your feelings. You have the right to whatever emotions you are experiencing. Journaling, sharing with trusted friends or simply identifying what you are feeling can all be helpful.
  • Practice good self-care. In pressured times, we often let go of the very habits that serve us well. Eat sensibly, get enough sleep, don’t let go of your exercise routine and take time to meditate, pray or just sit quietly.
  • Plan ahead. If your therapist will be on vacation, create a back-up plan. If you have had suicidal thoughts or feelings, the MY3 safety planning app my3app be a great resource. You and your counselor can create a customized safety plan that is kept on your smartphone for when you need it. 
  • Attend to and acknowledge your grief. If someone close to you has died in the past year, particularly if they died by suicide, the holidays may re-awaken your grief and sense of loss. Grief and loss support groups, including those for suicide loss survivors, can be helpful. Many groups can be found at this link: in-person support groups. 

There are also many services available to help individuals in crisis or in need of a good listener:

  • Friendship line for older adults and adults with disabilities: 800-971-0016 
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for those in crisis or if you are worried about someone else, 800-273-8255. Online chat is also available at suicide prevention lifeline.  
  • The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning people ages 13-24 at 866-488-7386. Online chat is also available from 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. at the Trevor Project.

In Placer County, the Campaign for Community Wellness is a community collaboration comprised of concerned community members, nonprofit agencies, school and law enforcement partners, family members and consumers of mental health services, and the Placer County Systems of Care staff. This collaboration works to build wellness in the community and share information about mental health and wellness.

To learn more, visit campaign for community wellness.