How to Cope With the Holiday Blues

The holidays are often associated with feelings of joy, comfort, and happiness. But, that isn’t the case for everyone. They can also be stressful, overwhelming, and lonely. For those already struggling with their mental health, the season can even make things worse.

According to NBC News, the LGBTQ+ community is at a greater risk of experiencing the holiday blues and mental health struggles. From tension within families to differing views, and even burnout at work, there are plenty of reasons why people in the community struggle this time of year.

You might not be able to immediately change things about your family situation, your job, or other sources of stress in your life this season. But, there are things you can do to take care of yourself. Learning how to cope with the holiday blues in healthy, effective ways will make it easier to get through this season (and beyond) with your overall well-being in mind.

Let’s cover some of those strategies, so you can enjoy this season, rather than trudging through it.

Practice Self-Care

It’s not uncommon for those struggling with mental health issues to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Some even take that to extremes by turning to substance abuse. Unfortunately, that’s a big problem in the LGBTQ+ community. People who identify as gay are twice as likely as heterosexual individuals to abuse tobacco or alcohol.

Other coping mechanisms might not seem as harmful but can cause extra stress and burnout. That includes working too much. Spending extra time at the office might seem like a good way to distract yourself. But, burying your feelings in your work will only add to your stress levels. Set realistic expectations for work, maintain a routine, and make a to-do list to keep you on track without going overboard.

Self-care is one of the best ways to cope with difficult situations and to manage your mental health. It’s especially important if you’ve started to notice symptoms of anxiety or depression, including fatigue. While self-care is different for everyone, some common everyday practices that can make a big difference include:

  • Eating a healthy meal
  • Going for a walk
  • Taking a hot shower or bath
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Spending time outside

If you think your mental health is suffering, another form of self-care is seeking out professional help. There is no shame in talking to a counselor or therapist, especially to get through the holidays. It shows that you’re being proactive about your mental health, rather than turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms or letting your harmful symptoms take over.

Set Boundaries

Many people in the community have a hard time with the holidays due to a family that isn’t accepting, or people in the family who have different views.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to set boundaries.

That doesn’t mean you need to avoid your family altogether. But, it’s okay to let them know that you might not stay at an event the entire time. You might not engage in conversation with certain family members. Or, you might not be willing to talk about certain topics. Politics and religion probably shouldn’t be your go-to conversation starters with Uncle Bob.

Remind yourself that a family get-together is only one day. You’re more in control than you think. By setting healthy boundaries, you can get through any event with your pride (and sanity) intact, and the family members that truly care about you will completely understand and respect your needs.

Do Things for Others

Whether you’re into the spirit of the season or not, it’s hard to deny that it’s a time of year that encourages giving. But, did you know that giving back to others can actually benefit you, too?

The obvious thing to do this time of year is to give gifts to the important people in your life. Family members, friends, and even co-workers all deserve a little something, right? Even if someone you know seems to “have it all”, get creative with your gift ideas. The more you surprise someone you care about with a thoughtful gift, the better you’ll feel knowing how much they love it.

Aside from gift-giving, you can use this time of year to truly give back and do things for others. It’s a wonderful way to reduce stress, boost your self-confidence, and even find support with like-minded people who want to lend a helping hand. Need a few ideas? Try some of the following:

  • Set up a local holiday food drive
  • Work with local LGBTQ+ youths
  • Volunteer at your favorite nonprofit
  • Spend time in nursing homes visiting with people who don’t have families
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter

Choose to give back in ways that mean something to you. The more passionate you are about a specific cause, the more you’ll gain from doing something good.

The holiday blues are very real, and can really put a damper on the season if you let them. But, by using these ideas to cope, you can feel merry and bright this time of year, no matter the circumstances.

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