Holidays can trigger mental health issues

According to a survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness in 2019, about 64 percent of people diagnosed with mental illness reported that holidays make their conditions worse and approximately 66 percent reported feeling lonely. The holidays can also prompt financial and psychosocial stress due to family conflict and holiday expectations.

Another survey taken this year to learn common stressors associated with the holidays found that 75 percent of respondents have concerns, with 19 percent worried about a loved one’s mental health and 26 percent worried about their mental health. It’s apparent the holiday blues are real, so taking care of your mental health around the holidays must be a priority.

The Mental Health Center at Cedar-Sinai says that many people experience increased distress during the winter holiday season whether that is due to loneliness, depression, or stress.

“For a significant number of people the holidays are earmarked with significant dread. There are those who already struggle with symptoms of mental illness in their daily life. Anxiety, depression, bipolar, as well as difficulties with family dynamics; cut-offs, distancing, toxic relationships can spiral into forms of unhealthy coping which only exacerbate the increase in symptoms,” said Jane Wiens, Social Worker/Therapist, LMSW of Pathlight Alliance Counseling in Hillsboro.

But there are steps that people can take to help with their mental health.

“There is hope. Make a choice not to be helpless nor powerless to outside influences. Consider the individual needs as valid, important and without judgment. One person may need a quiet environment. Another may attend all social events with energetic gusto and looking for more. Be flexible with yourself and know it is healthy to consider the balance between individuality and social connection,” said Wiens.

Wiens also points out that too little interaction is unhealthy, while too much may be overwhelming. “Plan accordingly. Will I go here? If I go to that social event, how long will I stay? How will I be able to cope while I am at this event? If you get overwhelmed, what is the plan? Leave if you need to. Be nonjudgemental toward yourself and set holiday boundaries,” said Wiens.

Wiens hopes people realize that the values they hold dear may be different than another person.

She said, “Consider what you feel as important rather than taking in external expectations. Discard the should, shouldn’t, must, mustn’t, oughts, ought nots. Your values hold far more weight than the voices from outside calling for expectations beyond measure. Lastly, in the context of self-care and values, add a dash of simplicity. What is important? Togetherness? What does that require? Only togetherness? If you want to add a little detail you may. Togetherness does not mean a super clean house, a full spread of food that you cooked, decorations all in their place and buying more.”

According to the Mental Health Center at Cedars-Sinai, understanding that we are not alone in our experiences may also help us cope with mental health-related challenges around the holidays. This idea of universality is the acknowledgment that even if we feel lonely, we also can recognize that we are not alone in our struggles.

For some, faith may play a helpful role.

“God in his mercy knows you and what you need and even if you do not know, he will show you,” said Wiens.

She points out that if your symptoms are beyond your ability to manage, call someone who will help you through. Talk with someone rather than remain in your thoughts.

“Isolation is unhelpful and only increases the sense of hopelessness. Managing stress has so many options. Consider how you will take in this holiday season. Self-care is important in enjoying a life worth living, and can be experienced in a way that works for you,” said Wiens.

Brooke Miller, a licensed social worker who runs Encounter Freedom Therapy Center in Wichita, agrees that self-care is key.

“Self-care is a vital ingredient for the holidays. You can’t give from an empty cup,” said Miller.

Miller also said that therapists are typically very busy seeing clients in crisis more from November to the end of the year due to the holidays.

For some that may be a friend or relative, but others may prefer to talk to a trained professional. The important thing is to talk to someone and get it out.

One great option for you or someone you know who is suicidal or in emotional distress is to call 988. 988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code for the national suicide and crisis lifeline. “People can now call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org if they are in crisis or are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support, which can include having thoughts of suicide or experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis,” said Wiens.

If this is a life-threatening emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

There are also many local professionals who can provide support to those in need. The following is a list of some resources that could be beneficial. These are just some suggestions from many options. It is important to find what works for you and know that not every therapist will be a perfect match. If none of these appeal to you, there are many more options you can find. The important thing is to start somewhere if you feel you need additional support.

PathLight Alliance Counseling

107 ½ S. Main, Hillsboro, KS 67063

620-213-4153

St. Luke Hospital and Living Center Main Street Clinic – Adam Heerey LCPC

921 E Main, Marion, KS 66861

316-927-3010

Central Kansas Counseling

114 Commerce Dr., Hesston, KS

620-869-9986

Central Kansas Mental Health Center

809 Elmhurst Boulevard, Salina, KS 67401

785-823-6322

Horizons Mental Health Center

1600 North Lorraine St, Suite 202, Hutchinson, KS 67501

620-663-7595 (this number also has a hotline available)

1-800-794-0163

CrossWinds Counseling & Wellness

301 Walnut St, Cottonwood Falls, KS 66845

620-343-2211

Client Centered Counseling

121 W Marlin St #300, McPherson, KS 67460

620-241-2300

Encounter Freedom Therapy Center

6611 E. Central Ave., Ste. C, Wichita, KS 67206

316-358-7713

Comcare Crisis Center 24-hour crisis hotline

316-660-7500

Prairie View:

  • Hillsboro office

508 S Ash St, Hillsboro, KS, 67063

800-992-6292

  • Newton Office

    1901 E 1st St, Newton, KS 67114

    316-284-6400

  • McPherson Office

    1102 Hospital Dr., McPherson, KS 67460

    800-992-6292

  • Hotline Number: 800-362-0180
More from Laura Fowler Paulus
Schaeffler House doll returns home
Sarah Tham, Mary McGinnis, Suzanne McGinn, Janet Lukehart, Louisa Schaeffler the Doll,...
Read More