Mental Health and the Holidays: How to Keep Your Mind Well

Posted by Seraine Page on Thu, Nov, 11, 2021

MHHolidays1-01Mental health and the holidays go hand in hand.

While many people look forward to rocking around the Christmas tree and more, others want nothing more than January 1 to arrive ASAP.

Not surprisingly, an estimated 64% of those with mental illness feel their conditions worsen during the holiday season. Between pandemic isolation and other factors like loneliness and grief, the holidays can create a huge burden on individuals’ mental health. Shorter days and less sunlight can also contribute to seasonal depression as well.

As an employer, taking time to check-in, offering resources, and lessening the holiday work event pressure can be helpful for struggling employees.

 This post will look at how the holidays can hurt employees’ health and  tips for staying mentally fit during some of the busiest and most stressful times of the year.

How the Holidays Impact Mental Health

For some people, the holidays are less than jolly. It’s a season that’s easy to be reminded of deceased loved ones, loneliness, and society pressures to be joyful. All of those — and more — can be tough to swallow.

Pressures to perform, spending time with family, and creating elaborate feasts and celebrations can also make the season feel painfully stressful.

The “holiday blues” are different from diagnosed mental health disorders, though. If those feelings persist beyond two weeks, it can lead to issues like depression and anxiety. Too much stress can lead to physical and mental concerns like headaches, digestive issues, weight loss, insomnia, anxiety, and more.

Remember, the holiday season is a temporary one. The feelings of loneliness, sadness, stress, and more will likely fade as the holidays wrap-up. If you’re feeling suicidal, get help ASAP. In a crisis, call 911 or text “NAMI” to 741741 for immediate mental health help .

Ways to Help Workers With Mental Health and the Holidays

In the spirit of the holidays, looking out for your team members can be one of the best ways to keep your company healthy. End-of-year deadline pressures, lack of time, financial stressors, family matters, and more can mount onto the stress your employees feel.  

Help employees with their mental health and the holidays by:

  • Watch for burnout - If your employees are slowing down significantly, take notice. Watch out for increased sick days, lower productivity, less enthusiasm, more cynicism, and exhaustion. These are keys your employees are running on fumes and desperately need a break. Talk to them about how you can meet their needs.
  • Offer holiday bonuses - Employees will never turn down extra cash during the holidays. It can be helpful to offer monetary incentives for those who worked hard all year to show your appreciation and give them a financial boost before the new year.
  • Encourage flexible schedules - Now is the time to let employees use flexible scheduling options as they prep and plan for holiday events.
  • Postpone major projects - If your company or department can wait on starting any new major projects, do so. It can be hard to get the momentum going when everyone is ready for a holiday break. Starting it in the new year will give everyone a new challenge to look forward to as well!
  • Keep communication open - Train managers in appropriately dealing with mental health conditions. Ask them to let team members know they can reach out any time. Listening and providing appropriate resources, accommodations, and help can make all the difference for an employee’s mental health. 
  • Provide professional help - Sometimes, despite the best efforts put forth by a company, an employee needs more help. This is a great time for HR departments to update their mental health resources information and share it with employees. Make it clear exactly what mental health services are covered and what an employee’s cost may be out-of-pocket in a reminder email. 

As a leader, train your management to keep a watchful eye on employees. Provide resources, check-in, and be realistic during this time of year. Doing so can make a world of difference for your employees’ mental health.

Ways Employees Can Keep Their Own Mental Health in Check

Being emotionally in-tune with feelings is one of the best gifts a person can give themselves during the holidays. Checking-in with emotions can curb breakdowns, reduce stress, and minimize mental health conditions being exacerbated.

Share these tips with your team:

  • Manage your time - Create a schedule that feels doable for you. There’s no need to say yes to plans that don’t fit into your schedule or that will stress you more than bring you joy.
  • Gather outdoors - If you know you’re going to feel stressed or anxious gathering with family and friends during the holidays indoors, head outdoors. Heat lamps and outdoor fire pits can make an outdoor atmosphere feel quite cozy and fun!
  • Remember what you need - It’s easy to be pulled in a million different directions during the holidays. Be kind to yourself and remember you have needs, too. You don’t have to say yes to every gathering and you don’t have to be cheerful if you don’t feel like it. Do what you need to cope with your stress in a helpful manner.
  • Skip the alcohol - It’s hard to find a holiday party that isn’t centered around booze. If you have a hard time with setting limits on drinking, consider potentially skipping parties where alcohol may be present. Alcohol is a depressant and if you’re already feeling crummy, drinking won’t help.
  • Relax - Make time for relaxation that appeals to you. Taking a break to refocus on your energy and thoughts can be calming and helpful in stressful seasons. Deep breathing and meditation are found to be particularly helpful.
  • Keep therapy appointments - Despite the holiday season being a busy one, remember to take care of your mental health needs. Keep your therapy appointments if you see a counselor on a regular basis, no matter how busy your schedule gets. When your mental health stays a priority, the rest of your body and life will feel more aligned, too.

Related: Reduce Holiday Stress ASAP At Work and Home With These 21 Tips

Offer Resources, Support to Team During Holidays

As an employer, it’s important to remember how hectic and stressful the holidays can be for some individuals.

Not everyone will want to celebrate or participate in office events. That’s okay. The pressure can feel like a lot, and being mindful of that and not forcing participation can do wonders for your team’s mental health. Employers who also remind employees that they’re in this holiday season together can make difficult times a little bit easier.

These resources can help employees cope better, too:

This is the time of year to keep an eye on mental health issues in the workplace. Your employees may not always want to speak up, but being intentional about how your workplace approaches mental health and the holidays can put your team in a better headspace.

How are you helping your team with their mental health during the holidays? Share in the comments below!

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Topics: Wellness at Work


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