The holidays can incite a range of responses, depending on the individual. Maybe you can't wait for the festivities to begin, or alternately approach them with trepidation; perhaps, like most of us, you face the season with a mixture of anxiety and anticipation.
One thing is certain, this time of year can take the biggest toll on your wellbeing.
A recent survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that approximately 24% of people with diagnosed mental health issues reported that the winter holidays worsened their condition, with a further 40% noting a minor but nonetheless negative impact.
Mounting expenses, familial challenges, and feelings of isolation due to geography or estrangement can all exacerbate existing depression, anxiety, trauma, or addictions.
If you're one of the millions of Americans undergoing professional therapy, you know how difficult it can be to make the time for your appointments when the holiday rush is in full swing.
More often than not, sessions are put on hold until well into the new year. However, this may be the biggest mistake you make this time of year, and here's why.
‘Tis The Season For Self-Care
Let's face it, tensions run high during the holidays. Gift-giving expectations, family obligations, and travel are just a few stress-inducing rituals that can melt even the calmest person's cool (to say nothing about bad tempered shoppers and around-the-clock Christmas music).
If you are already battling stress and anxiety in your day-to-day life, now more than ever is the time to take extra care of yourself. This means establishing boundaries, making time for yourself away from the chaos, and yes, meeting with your therapist.
Your time with your therapist is just that: yours. It's a time for opening up and exploring behavioral patterns, emotions, relationships, goals, and concerns for the future.
It can also be a welcome time for venting holiday grievances you couldn't otherwise express.
Your therapist can prepare you for the worst while giving you the best possible tools for taking on the holidays, whether it's anger management or steeling yourself against triggering relatives.
Tending to your mental health is far from indulgent, and showing up for that hour or so a week can make all the difference in how the season unfurls.
The Importance Of A Routine
A lot gets thrown off kilter during the holidays, and regularly kept schedules are usually the first to suffer.
Appointments get canceled, routines shifted or dropped altogether, and while this can certainly lend some refreshing fun to the usual pace, it can also leave you feeling a bit untethered and out of sorts.
For people who depend on a schedule to keep them grounded, focused, and forward moving, the holidays can feel like a nerve-racking free-for-all.
Speaking with a professional during the demanding holiday season will not only help you pinpoint and work through holiday stressors, but stick to a dependable routine.
The latter especially will not only provide a reliable source of stability, but keep you centered amidst the chaos.
Connecting With Others
Despite the well-meaning message of reconnecting with and appreciating loved ones, the holidays can be rife with interpersonal drama.
Clashes with friends, family, and even coworkers can lead to lasting damage and subsequent anxieties regarding future holiday turnouts.
Good communication is a necessary tool in any given situation, but the holidays certainly demand an even higher degree.
A therapist can guide you through the steps of dealing with potentially difficult interactions, diffusing uncomfortable or even hostile confrontations, and getting the most out of your holiday experience.
By learning how to deal with people you'd probably rather not have to rub elbows with, you can prepare for any encounter that comes your way, within AND outside of the holidays.
If You Can't Go Out, Go Online
A number of people find it difficult to keep an in-office therapist, even outside of busy holiday seasons.
Transportation challenges, insurance restrictions, and scheduling conflicts can all hinder one from getting the help they need.
If you're finding it increasingly difficult to seek out or maintain a therapist, it might be worth your while to look into online therapy.
Discreet, affordable, and convenient, online therapy allows you to book and conduct counseling sessions entirely online via the electronic device of your choice.
This means you can meet your appointments from the comfort of your own home, even if it means excusing yourself for an hour during gatherings to move to a more private spot.
Because online therapy is tailored for people with uncompromising schedules and external realities that make visiting a brick and mortar establishment next to impossible, the holidays are the perfect time to get online and find the therapist that is right for you.
All listed professionals are fully licensed and experienced, with many of them specializing in certain areas that may be relevant to you (depression, trauma, addiction, relationships).
A Final Word On Therapy
It's a sad truth that a lot of people just don't understand the need to see a therapist to manage one's mental health and wellbeing.
Blame it on old fashioned values, common misconceptions, or just plain ignorance, but no one has a right to shame you for taking the necessary steps towards a better quality of life.
If you run up against such persons during the holidays, you are well within your right to calmly explain that your mental health choices are nobody's business but your own, and leave it at that.
There may be no shortage of nosy relatives or judgmental acquaintances this time of year, but you can and should be proud of taking those steps so many would benefit from.