There’s a common belief that everyone is supposed to be happy and in a joyous mood during the holiday season as we gather in the company of family and friends.
But these days, with the COVID-19 pandemic and news of the Delta and Omicron variants wreaking havoc on the health of so many people, good mental health during this special time of the year is anything but normal for many individuals.
“The reality is that the coronavirus pandemic and the economic and social impact it has had on so many families has caused many of us to lose a sense of hope,” said Dr. Britany Alexander, a psychiatrist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California.
“There are many people experiencing financial challenges after losing their jobs and a sense of uncertainty has added to feelings of depression and anxiety,” Alexander said. “For others, they are still weary of gathering with family and friends due to concern over catching or spreading COVID-19. There may be other pressures as families may be divided on how to manage the pandemic.
“As a result, many are suffering from mental health problems, and some are resorting to using drugs and alcohol for temporary comfort.”
What that means, according to the doctor, is that many people feel sad during this holiday season. But it’s important to not lose hope, as we have the opportunity to remind ourselves what the holidays are all about, she noted.
“Sometimes, the simplest act can have the greatest impact on another person’s well-being by extending a kind word or a smile,” Alexander explained. “In order to do that, however, we cannot forget to take care of ourselves, especially when it comes to our mental health.”
If you feel down, sad or depressed during the holidays, Alexander suggests:
Take the time to allow yourself to mourn the loss of your prior expectations.
You don’t have to set lower expectations – just different ones with a new focus on adapting to your current situation.
Feeling uneasy is normal, considering all the changes and unknowns that we have faced during the past two years due to the pandemic.
We might not be able to give as many presents to our loved ones, like we would normally do, but we can still remind our loved ones how much we care for them and how much they mean to us.
“The holidays can be a special time for us if we can avoid added pressures and adjust our expectations for our current circumstances,” Alexander said.
“It’s important to remember our core values and practice gratitude. Do what’s right for you and remember: good mental health is essential for all of us to enjoy life to the fullest despite any challenges we might face.”
Alexander stressed that if your depression or anxiety persists, it’s important to seek help from your primary care physician or mental health care provider.