How to support someone struggling during the holidays

pt Health Occupational Therapy

Is someone you know struggling with their mental health? It can be difficult, scary, and stressful when someone you care about is dealing with a mental health problem. You might be wondering how you can support them. We often know what to do when they get the flu or a cold, but what can be done for a mental health concern?

Well, let’s get down to the importance of mental health support for friends or family members. Families can be complicated, and connections will vary. Some people may have a strong bond with their families – spending quality time with each other every day. Other families however, may be more distant due to different circumstances and may not live close to each other or spend much time together.

When someone is struggling with a mental health problem, supporting them can make all the difference in their recovery, so it’s important that you show your love and support in any way you can. Often, talking about mental health can feel uncomfortable and is easier said them done. Supporting someone who care about may involve recognizing when they are feeling emotionally unwell, having caring and supportive conversations, and help when you can. This can also include offering to help them find a qualified mental health professional.

The holidays can be challenging

The holidays can sometimes bring on feelings of stress, anxiety and/or depression. Feeling financial burdens due to holiday expenses like travel, gifting or even hosting a gathering for example, can contribute to these feelings. Feeling overwhelmed can also take away from the time someone reserves for self-care and can increase the difficulty of balancing and organizing everyday responsibilities.

The holidays can also be a time of happiness and joy, but it’s important to recognize if you or someone you know is having a hard time. The signs aren’t always easy to spot, but here are some of the more common ones:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt and / or sadness.
  • Increased frustration, anxiety, irritability or restlessness.
  • Loss of interest in most hobbies or activities.
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping.
  • Tiredness, decreased appetite and lack of energy.
  • Fixation on past failures.
  • Trouble concentrating, focusing, or thinking.

6 tips that may help

  • Acknowledging your feelings, do not force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  • Mindfulness activities (meditation, reading, yoga practices) can help you focus on the present.
  • Staying active, like walking outside or putting some time away for an enjoyable activity.
  • Set realistic goals around the holiday season, don’t overextend yourself.
  • Seek help, talk to someone you trust about what is bothering you.
  • Remember you are NOT alone if you are having a hard time, the holidays can be difficult times for many.
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