Festivities, family reunions and joyful celebrations are all part of the holidays, but for many people, the holiday season can also bring anxiety and depression.

Dr. Michael Hallet, psychiatry specialist withSuburban Psychiatric Associates and a board member of National Alliance on Mental Illness in Buffalo and Erie County (NAMI), indicates that 30 to 40 percent of people may experience anxiety and depression during the holidays. An estimated 60 percent of patients who already have a mental health diagnosis may have exacerbated symptoms during this time.

Some of the reasons for this include expectations and pressure to have a perfect holiday, overindulging in alcohol (a depressant), financial stress of gift buying and entertaining, and grief over the loss of a loved one. Another factor is shortened daylight, which can result in seasonal affective disorder.

There are several ways that friends and family members can help their loved one who may be experiencing anxiety or depression during the holidays.

According to Dr. Hallet, one of the most helpful actions is listening and not minimizing someone’s feelings.

“Let them vent and get their feelings out;
often, the less said, the better,” he said.

However, if symptoms are persistent or severe, encourage him or her to seek help. You can offer to set up an appointment with their family doctor and accompany them to the appointment. Primary care doctors are the first line of care for individuals who need help and can refer for further treatment or medication.

Another suggestion is encouraging the person to join in holiday festivities on a limited basis to prevent them from being isolated. Inviting them to attend a gathering for “ just an hour” is often less overwhelming.

For individuals who are already diagnosed with a mental illness, it’s important that they consider lowering their expectations for the holidays and reach out to their psychologist.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, contact the Crisis Services 24 hour hotline at 716-834-3131.

Here are some tips to avoid the holiday blues:

  • Stick to normal routines as much as possible.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Take time for yourself, but don’t isolate yourself. Spend time with supportive, caring people.
  • Eat and drink in moderation. Don’t drink alcohol if you are feeling down.
  • Exercise, even if it is only taking a short walk.
  • Make a to-do list and keep things simple.
  • The holidays can be overwhelmingly busy. Set reasonable goals for holiday activities.
  • Set a budget and don’t overextend yourself financially.
  • Practice what relaxes you, such as listening to music, reading or practicing yoga.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

An estimated
16 million
American adults
(almost 7% of the population)
had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.

%

Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression

%

Young adults aged 18-25 are 60% more likely to have depression than people aged 50 or older.