Holiday Mental Health Myths and Tips for Happy Holidays

The holiday season is in full swing, with various celebrations happening in the next two weeks and it’s according to the holiday-themed messages we receive constantly, this is the most wonderful time of the year. While your schedule may be full, running here and there for the kids with their events at school or finals preparation and your own obligations with work and friends, it’s important to take time for yourself.

Mental health concerns don’t take a break because of a date on the calendar, so it’s important for you to be prepared. This month we’ll discuss some of the statistics surrounding depression, eating disorders and alcohol addictions then discuss some ways you can prepare yourself to have a healthy, happy holiday season.

Holiday Mental Health Statistics

Major Depressive Disorders

We often hear that rates of depression and suicide spike at the holidays, which is a myth. Although rates of loneliness and stress may increase at this time, statistics point to the spring as the time most individuals die by suicide. In 2015, the National Institutes of Health reported 16.1 million adults, aged 18 or older had at least one depressive episode in the previous 12 months – that is 6.7 percent of the population.

Those numbers skew heavily towards women and the 18 to 25 age group, which is a shift from the previous decade where those 50 and older reported higher rates of depression. As with all mental health concerns, depression does not discriminate and it can affect anyone.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are also discussed much during the holiday season, as many American families have traditions surrounding food, desserts and indulgence; and there are a number of myths surrounding this topic too. As this is difficult to track, it is estimated approximately three percent of the American population lives with an eating disorder, often hiding it from friends and family.

Without treatment, up to 20 percent of people with serious eating disorders die as a result of their illness, but this number drops to two to three percent with treatment. There is an idea that it’s easy to identify people living with eating disorders or that family gatherings will trigger negative behaviors, and these ideas are simply untrue. Working with medical professionals, people with eating disorders can find complete recovery, no matter what biological factors precipitated a patient’s behaviors.

Alcohol Addiction

It is estimated that in 2015 there were 1,200 alcohol-related deaths at the holiday season. That same year, more than 15 million adults reportedly had alcohol use disorder, with this skewing more towards men at 8.4 percent. During the holidays many are celebrating, reconnecting with old friends, and the tendency to “let go” increases.

In 2010, misuse of alcohol cost the U.S. $249 billion and three quarters of that cost is related to binge drinking according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Much has been discussed about the opioid crisis, and it is a very important topic, but alcohol abuse is the third highest cause of death in the country and should not be neglected.

Mental Health: A Happy Holiday is Possible

This is quite a bit of heavy information, but there is hope. As the holidays end, the new year is upon us, which is a great time to restart. Whether the restart looks like seeking help for the first time or committing to following a better program with new medications, starting a new exercise regimen, changing what you eat, there’s great news. You can start all those initiatives now, without waiting for January.

Last year, we shared specific tips to beat the holiday blues, which included:

  • Accepting your feelings as valid, denying issues creates further problems and you’ve worked so hard to move forward this year.
  • Saying no to overbooking yourself and taking a break, leave margin for yourself to rest and recuperate to start the year strong. You’ve worked hard all year, take a well-deserved breather.
  • Connecting with your support team, the holidays are a great time for connection and to let people know how much you appreciate their presence in your life.
  • Curbing your social media enthusiasm, the comparison trap can cause undue stress and anxiety or trigger loneliness. Check in occasionally, but spend the majority of your time elsewhere.
  • Volunteering in your community, the holidays are a great time for giving and many people find they receive a lot of joy from helping others.
  • Staying accountable, this perhaps more than anything is a great display of your growth over the past year. No matter what your mental health challenges include, having a plan in place will help you.
    • For depression, have someone you can talk to who will encourage you and set aside time to partake in your favorite activities. Keep your favorite tunes and movies on standby, or get out and bike, walk or jog on your favorite trail or in the gym to get your blood flowing and endorphins jumpstarted.
    • For eating disorders, speak with someone who knows how to help your through these times, be completely honest with this person. Discuss with them your plans for this time frame and develop new traditions for yourself that help you deal with food in a healthy manner – you can do it!
    • For those in recovery programs for this addiction, it is important to have a plan in place before stepping out. Everyone is in a different place in their recovery, if you’re not drinking at all, that’s OK. If you decide to partake, set a limit and stick to it. No matter what, appointing a designated driver, calling a taxi or hailing a ride-share vehicle are all ways to stay safe if you do happen to drink.

Santa isn’t the only one who should have a toolkit for the holidays, and we hope these tips help you all year long. The Holiner Psychiatric Group is here to help you on your mental health journey. If you’re looking to start a new program, you can fill in our new patient appointment form here or give us a call in Dallas at 972-566-4591 or McKinney at 469-742-0199.

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