Holidays like Christmas and New Year’s can be mentally and emotionally trying, both for people with depression and anxiety and those without any diagnosed condition.
Tim Macken, Chief Operating Officer at Heritage Behavioral Health Center in Decatur, said between 65 and 70 percent of people with mental health issues report their condition is worse to some degree during the holidays, and he added that children are particularly affected during the season.
“It’s a time of year with heightened expectations, a time of year when loneliness can be an added burden, and then stress, the whole stress of the season,” Macken said, adding that the darkness and cold of the season can also cause problems.
For others, he said, holidays can be a reminder of loved ones who have died or a reminder of loneliness. To that end, he offered some suggestions:
“One (suggestion), especially during the holidays, is to give themselves permission that it’s not like it was. It’s okay,” Macken said. “The other thing is, for depression and anxiety, the same things that work any other time of year will work this time of year. It’s remembering to get plenty of sleep, to eat healthy, and to exercise. Move. Those things will help. There’s research behind that that physical activity will lessen depression and anxiety.”
For those who know someone who is unhappy or depressed during the holidays, Macken offered additional advice.
“It’s always good for people to know ‘Hey, I’m here. I can listen, if you want to talk,’” Macken said. “I tend to encourage people not to give impromptu advice, the pop psychology kind of thing … I think having people who know how to be a good listener helps more.