5 Tips for Good Mental Health this Holiday Season
The holiday season is generally considered a happy and joyous time of year, so it may be surprising to learn how many youth and adults alike experience elevated levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Reports from the American Psychological Association indicate that between 48% and 64% of people experience heightened stress levels during the holidays.
Stress is often at the root of other physical and mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, physical illness, and new or worsening relationships with drugs and alcohol. Another report from a survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness indicates approximately one-quarter of those with a previously diagnosed mental health condition report the holiday season makes their symptoms significantly worse, and about 40% report the holidays make them feel “somewhat” worse.
5 Tips for Good Mental Health this Holiday Season
The holidays can be challenging for everyone but for different reasons. Knowing how to reduce or avoid potential stressors related to the season can help your teen manage their mental health both during the holidays and beyond. Below we have provided a few tips for maintaining good mental health during the upcoming months. But remember that these tips apply to more than holiday stress management. The tools suggested can easily be used throughout the entire year to manage mental health challenges that can arise regardless of the season.
Keep expectations realistic and achievable
The goals people set for themselves during the holidays can sometimes increase stress levels. It is not uncommon to set goals and expectations for the season that are unrealistic or difficult to achieve. This can lead to increased anxiety, tension, and disappointment. Approaching the holiday season with expectations that are within reach can help to reduce the emotional ups and downs and difficult stressors that come with not being able to achieve one’s goals throughout the season. It is important to remember that the joy of the season is often found in spending time with family and loved ones rather than in the details of gifts and other material factors.
Avoid comparisons to others
For today’s teens, there is often significant pressure to compare oneself to others. Teens often look to social media to see what others in their social circles or otherwise have that they do not. As the holidays approach, posts on social sharing applications about gifts received (or given) and social functions can lead your teen to compare their lives, families, and situations to others. These comparisons are often unfair as it is impossible to know the factors and aspects of others’ lives that are not seen through the eye of social media.
Social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and others are designed to show the positives. They are a highlight reel that shows what others want the world to see. Therefore, it is vital to help your teen understand the potential pitfalls associated with comparing themselves to others and what they see online because those comparisons may not be realistic. Avoiding these comparisons makes it possible to reduce many holiday stressors and find gratitude in the people and things that already surround you.
Avoid holiday isolation
Teens spend their days immersed in the social experience that is middle and high school. During the holidays, much like summer break and other vacation periods throughout the year, interactions with friends often drop off as everyone is home with family or perhaps traveling for the season. Without the daily interactions they are accustomed to, teens may find they feel more lonely and isolated than usual. The new and unfamiliar isolation can trigger various mental health challenges, including depression and anxiety.
Parents and guardians can help their teen maintain their mental health while away from social groups by encouraging communication with family and friends. However, this can be a slippery slope. It is important to encourage connection but to avoid too much time spent online as well. Although it can be difficult, you can help your teen by limiting communication using video games and social media while encouraging face-to-face interactions with family, friends, and social groups over the holidays.
Encourage taking time for self-care
Self-care is defined by the World Health Organization as the “ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” This definition suggests that self-care includes all of the things your teen can do to remain physically and emotionally healthy. It is the steps and tools they can use to manage stress and improve all aspects of their health.
There are many different ways one can practice self-care. It is not necessarily what they do that is important; rather, that they find a practice that brings about calm and relaxation. A few examples of popular self-care techniques include:
- Walking a walk
- Stretching exercises such as yoga or Pilates
- Taking care of your sleep habits
- Eating a well-balanced diet
- Practicing mindfulness skills such as meditation or deep-breathing
- Trying a new hobby
- Listening to music
- Reading a book
The above list is by no means exhaustive. What self-care looks like for one person may differ dramatically from what another needs to feel relaxed, rested, and calm. Again, what is most important is finding a practice or habit that can be called upon during stressful times (during the holidays and beyond) to ease stress and anxiety.
Related: Ways to Reduce the Holiday Stress
Set and maintain healthy boundaries
The idea of setting boundaries may seem challenging during the holidays. However, doing so is an essential factor for healthy family functioning throughout the holiday season and other times of the year when family events occur. For teens, it may seem even harder to set and maintain boundaries as many teens cannot pick and choose which family members they spend time with as a part of holiday events. Despite the challenges related to boundary setting and maintenance, it is crucial to remember that having and maintaining healthy boundaries can help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress related to the celebratory season.
When family members use respectful and open communication during interactions with one another, it is possible for family events to be joyful and pleasant. While it is true that there may be family members your teen would prefer not to socialize with, boundaries can make effective interactions possible. The fear of being “forced” to mingle with close or extended family can lead to feelings of anxiety, sometimes. This often means family get-togethers rapidly devolve into conflict and tense situations. It is important to know your limitations for interaction and conversation. Suppose your teen currently sees a mental health provider. In that case, they may want to work with them on boundary setting and role-playing about complicated family dynamics, so they feel better prepared to address possibly challenging family dynamics should they arise.
Know When to Seek Help
Mental health needs do not arise solely during the holiday season. Teens experience stressors and challenges to their emotional and spiritual health for a wide variety of reasons throughout the year. Still, youth (and adults) find these stressors worse during the holiday season. Regardless of when they occur, it is crucial to know that seeking help at a teen-focused treatment center like Hillcrest could help your teen develop the tools and skills they need to manage mental health stressors. Developing healthy coping mechanisms and learning about healthy self-care practices makes it less likely that your teen will turn to unhealthy and potentially dangerous coping mechanisms to manage their holiday and day-to-day stressors.
At Hillcrest, our highly experienced and compassionate team of medical and mental health professionals will work with your family to help each member better understand the root causes of various mental health needs in teens. We understand that the best treatment plans are those that meet your teen where they are in their care needs to develop a care plan based on those needs.
Everyone who seeks mental health treatment has differing needs and goals. For this reason, cookie-cutter treatment programs that address a diagnosis rather than your teen’s symptoms are often unsuccessful. Our care plans consider the medical, emotional, and spiritual health needs of everyone who chooses Hillcrest for mental health care. We choose from a range of evidence-based therapy tools designed to help your teen and family members. It is to better begin their healing journey with counseling models that are suited to their needs.
Call Hillcrest Today
We also understand it can be challenging for parents and guardians to consider sending their child to a therapy program like our California treatment center. For this reason, we strive to involve family members in many aspects of the care planning process. This not only helps both parents and their teen feel more at ease as treatment begins. It also helps family members learn more about the support their loved one may need as they complete treatment and return home to their day-to-day obligations, hobbies, and activities.
The holiday season is not only a time of joy and making new memories, but it can also bring about added stress and anxiety for many teens. Each person needs different levels of support to manage their mental health during the holiday season and throughout the year. For teens with a pre-existing mental health diagnosis, a little extra support from a provider here at Hillcrest may help. It can provide an opportunity to learn and practice essential coping tools they can use to manage the stressors that may accompany separation from their social groups. It can also be used to manage the challenges of family obligations during the upcoming season. If you would like to learn more about our programs and how we can help, contact a member of our admissions team today.