The holiday is often portrayed as a time of joy and celebration. However, for many young people, it can be a challenging period that exacerbates mental health issues. The pressures and expectations of the holiday season can take a toll on the mental well-being of youth. In this blog, we’ll explore some eye-opening statistics on mental health during the holidays, and delve into why this time of year can be particularly hard for young people.
Loneliness: During the holidays, approximately 1 in 3 youth report feeling lonelier than usual. The emphasis on family gatherings and social events can further magnify feelings of isolation. because, paradoxically, the expectation of togetherness can highlight the stark contrast between one's actual social connections and the idealized sense of community often portrayed during this season. In other words, the pressure to be surrounded by loved ones can intensify feelings of loneliness when those expectations aren't met.
Stress and Anxiety: Around 50% of youth experience increased stress and anxiety during the holiday season. The pressure to meet academic deadlines, find the perfect gifts, and socialize can become overwhelming.
Depression: Rates of depression tend to spike in December. Studies show that up to 1 in 4 youth may experience symptoms of depression during the holiday season.
Financial Strain: According to the American Psychiatric Association many students and young adults face financial difficulties during the holidays. Approximately 60% of youth worry about the cost of gifts, travel, and holiday-related expenses.
Challenges Brought on by the Holidays
Lets delve into three of these issues in-depth, exploring how body image concerns, family dynamics, and societal pressures can significantly impact the mental well-being of youth. By understanding these challenges and discussing strategies to cope with them, we aim to provide support and guidance to those navigating the holiday season while prioritizing their Mental Health.
Body Image Issues: The holiday season is synonymous with social gatherings, parties, and the pressure to look and feel our best. This can exacerbate body image issues, a critical concern for many young individuals. The desire to conform to unrealistic beauty standards, fit into party attire, or even deal with comments from well-meaning relatives about physical appearance can intensify self-criticism and negative body image. In this section, we'll explore the roots of body image concerns, the impact on mental health, and strategies to foster a more positive self-image during the holidays.
Family Issues: Family gatherings are a hallmark of the holiday season, and while they can be a source of joy and connection, they can also trigger family-related mental health issues. Unresolved conflicts, strained relationships, and a feeling of not being understood can all come to the forefront during this time. The pressure to conform to family expectations, especially when those expectations clash with individual values or identities, can be particularly distressing.
Societal Pressures: The holiday season also brings about a unique set of societal pressures. Young people are often balancing academic commitments with the desire to maintain a vibrant social life. Final exams, project deadlines, and a whirlwind of social events can lead to increased stress and anxiety. The quest to excel academically while participating in festivities can be overwhelming. Let’s discuss ways to manage academic and social pressures, set realistic goals, establish boundaries, and prioritize self-care, ensuring that the holiday season is an enjoyable and mentally healthy time.
Ways to Combat
Holiday stress can absolutely be challenging, but there are several proactive steps that students can take to combat these mental health challenges. Here are a few ideas:
Preparations and Premade Plans: Anticipating potential stressors and preparing for them can be a powerful tool. Create a plan for how you'll handle challenging family dynamics or academic stress. Having a premade strategy in place can reduce anxiety and provide a sense of control.
Prioritize Self-Care: Make self-care a non-negotiable part of your holiday routine. Whether it's taking time to read, go for a walk, meditate, or engage in a favorite hobby, schedule moments for self-care in your calendar. Prioritizing self-care ensures that you have the emotional resources to handle any challenges that arise.
Set Boundaries: Recognize that it's okay to set boundaries during the holidays. This can include saying "no'' to social engagements that you can't handle, or calmly communicating your limits to family members. Setting boundaries is essential for protecting your mental well-being.
Time Management: If you have academic commitments during the holiday season, effective time management is key. Create a study schedule and stick to it. Plan study breaks to enjoy the festivities without feeling overwhelmed. It is important to allow yourself to take breaks, guilt-free!
Seek Professional Help: If the holiday season becomes overwhelming and begins to negatively affect your mental health, consider seeking professional help. Therapists, counselors, or support groups can provide guidance and a safe space to express your feelings.
If you're a student bracing for Holiday stress and grappling with the added weight of mental health challenges, we want you to know that you're not alone. Neolth is a digital stress and mental health support program for students and educators. We’re on a mission to help you stress less, build resilience, and become a part of our compassionate community. Our app helps you when you’re feeling overwhelmed with self-guided content, personalized for your mental health journey. Neolth has a growing community of Student Ambassadors from 170 schools and works with schools to improve access to mental health support for their students and teachers alike. You can learn more at neolth.com or sign up today at cloud.neolth.com.
About the Author:
Alex Pekarthy (she/her) is a recent graduate from the University of Arizona and received a Bachelor's degree in Communication, and has been part of every internship Neolth offers. Originally from California, she spent the last four years living away at college. Throughout her time at school, Alex endured many hardships brought on by the state of her mental health. After being diagnosed with severe anxiety, panic disorder, PTSD, and agoraphobia, Alex had to relearn how to navigate through life and completing everyday tasks. Alex strives to utilize what she used during her journey with mental health to help others who are struggling. In her free time Alex enjoys going to the beach, watching scary movies, and going out to sushi.