Ups and Downs of the Holidays
By: Fauzia Haque, Contributing Writer
As the holiday season kicks in and people all over the world rejoice for a sense of normalcy, many overlook the stress and mental distress that this time of year can bring. The exhaustion coming from isolation, intense preparation, or the inability to handle the emotions triggered by the holidays can damage and deteriorate one’s mental health and lead to adverse side effects. On the flip side, the holidays can bring euphoria and a sense of ecstasy to those eager to participate in it, alleviating stress. Below are the ways that the holidays can both damage and improve the mental health of adolescents and young adults.
The Holidays and Mental Health:
The holidays can have both negative and positive effects on the mental health of adolescents. Many teens look forward to the holidays due to no school and the ability to take a break from the stress and exhaustion that schoolwork and their personal lives can bring. The festive season of the holidays sparks more creativity and sharper mental capacity that allows more healthy stimulation for the adolescent mind. Research shows that psychological benefits from the holidays can last up to a month of satisfaction. Holidays help to reduce stress, giving the mind pleasure and a distraction away from chaos. Nuffield Health, a UK healthcare charity, discovered that those who had opted out of taking a vacation or de-stressing during the holidays experience higher blood pressure, less sleep, and more intense stress. Individuals experience a sharper mindset and more innovation with a break from stress and hectic lifestyles; a prolonged break ensures less anxiety, better mood, and less fatigue as the mind is much more intellectually sharpened. Activities done over the holidays that require more energy use or much more activity than a regular day does better mental health and one’s wellbeing. The prospect of having something as fun as the holidays to look forward to can also boost moods and keep individuals away from feeling low or caving into depressive or manic episodes.
On the other hand, the holidays can be a trigger for so many people suffering from isolation or chronic stress as it can pile on more sadness or loneliness. The expectations of what the holidays should actually look and feel like dramatically rain down on the reality of what the holidays are for some individuals that causes a deterioration of the state of their mental health and well-being. The obsolete feeling that some may acquire from the holidays can stem from a number of different things: feeling left out or alone because everyone else is enjoying their time and you are not; traumatic events that creates the idea that the holidays are not worth it; views that the holidays must absolutely be “perfect” or go “perfectly;” and it’s hard to celebrate such a special time during the year when the people that an individual wants to celebrate with are having a hard time themselves. Past traumatic and difficult experiences can cause the holiday season to feel gloomy, bleak, and, overall, unenjoyable due to a crushing feeling already present. Hypomania and mania episodes that arise can be triggered due to the feelings of the holidays that can cause an extreme amount of euphoria that immediately resorts to depressive lows that completely drain the mental state.
The holiday time of year can be both a welcoming experience but also a horrendous and tragic situation for those who might not be as easily open to it. It is important to enjoy the holidays for what they are, but to also be mindful of those who might not be as blessed to be able to relish in the holidays as well.