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It's OK to Not Be OK During the Holidays

You are not alone, and there are numerous ways to feel supported.

People experience a wide range of emotions over the holidays. For some, it’s a time of joy, celebration, family, and warmth. For others, however, it’s a time of remembering loved ones they have lost, struggles with addiction, financial worry, and other holiday stressors. And let’s not forget this year, we are approaching the holidays during a pandemic!

For many, the holidays this year may look very different than in the past. However, I want everyone to know that it’s OK to not be OK during the holidays. You are not alone, and there are numerous ways to feel supported through the holiday blues, as well as in challenging non-holiday times.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reported that nearly 20% of Americans live with a mental health disorder. They stated that in 2017, 46.6 million adults were diagnosed with a mental health disorder. These numbers do not include children and adolescents who are struggling with mental health disorders or undiagnosed individuals over the age of 18.

Also, the added stress of caring for and supporting a loved one struggling with mental health concerns and/or addiction can add to the pressure, sadness, and anxiety during the holiday time. In 2014 (pre-pandemic time), the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that 64% of individuals diagnosed with a mental health concern believed that the holidays worsened their conditions.

Unlike being diagnosed with a mental health disorder, there is such a thing as the holiday blues. The holiday blues consist of feelings of anxiety and sadness during the holiday season due to financial concerns, feelings of loneliness, sleep problems, isolation, and loss of interest and pleasure in activities usually enjoyed. These symptoms may worsen during the 2020 holidays due to the current coronavirus pandemic and increased isolation on top of the usual holiday stress.

I want to emphasize that it is OK to not be OK during the holiday season. I know it appears that everyone is having a jolly and merry time during the holidays. The truth is that some people are mentally, emotionally, and physically struggling during this time. You are not alone!

Here are some things that can help depression, anxiety, and the holiday blues:

Therapy. Therapy allows you to focus on you. It allows you to increase your ways of coping with tough situations and thoughts. Finding the right-fit therapist will help you increase your stress-relieving skills and ability to cope with stressful, sad, or difficult experiences in your life. Therapy does not have to be a reaction to something negative in your life. Just as you would go to your primary care physician (PCP) for a wellness visit, therapy can be a preventative tactic to support living your life in a healthy way.

Support groups. Support groups are a wonderful way of connecting with others who may be struggling with something similar. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers many free support groups. Please check out their website for their support groups and other resources.

Talking to family and friends. Give a family member or friend a call. Even if it’s just to say, “just wanted to call and say hi.” Set up a Zoom call with a friend and family as a means of staying connected.

Volunteering. Volunteer your time with the Society for the Prevention and Cruelty of Animals (SPCA), a soup kitchen, or a shelter, etc. This can be a great way of connecting with others and giving back to others and the community. Volunteer work is extremely rewarding. You can also donate clothes, make dinner platters for the homeless, put together blessing bags, and experience other ways of giving back to the community.

Physical health. Start going for walks, jogging, and/or running. Physical exercise can improve mental and emotional health. Also, try yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness activities. The beauty of the internet is that you can find many instructional videos to help start being active with mindfulness activities. If you have never tried it, you may surprise yourself and love it.

Spirituality. Spirituality means different things to everyone. What are some ways that you connect with your spirituality? Maybe it’s going to church, mosque, synagogue, or taking a walk, listening to mother nature, etc. Find what brings you peace and purpose.


National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2014). Mental health and the holiday blues.…

National Institute of Mental Health. (2019, February). Mental Health Information.…