Managing Depression & Mental Health During the Holidays

Depression affects more than 14.8 million adults in the U.S. For those struggling with depression, the holiday season can be anything but the most wonderful time of the year. In fact, for most people with depression and mental health disorders, the holidays can be one of the most difficult, frustrating, and dreadful times of the year. Even people who don’t struggle with clinical depression can find the holidays to be extremely depressing and stressful.

Some of the reasons for this include the hectic nature of preparing a home for family members and guests, endless parties and social gatherings, gift shopping, big meal making, and everything in between. Even seeing others more cheerful and merry than usual can make it extra difficult for those struggling with depression.

Staying Joyful & Merry During the Holiday Season
So what are ways you can help yourself or your loved one manage depression and mental health during the holidays? Therapeutic Solutions wants to equip you with some practical tips and steps to help make your season more joyful.

Consider the following as we head into the holidays:

1. Don’t Let Your Expectations Run Away From You

When you think of the holiday season, do you envision classic movies that portray the perfect turkey dinner or glazed ham with family members smiling around a table or drinking hot cocoa while watching the snow fall? Don’t let elevated expectations creep into your holiday season! Keep your mindset realistic and don’t build up how you think the end of the year should round out. When things don’t go your way, it can easily trigger depression. Consider stepping outside of tradition to create a unique holiday experience that will take the pressure off.

Instead of worrying about preparing the perfect meal, finding the perfect gift, or putting up the most beautiful decorations, just enjoy the simple moments. While this can be easier said than done, find a support system of people or professionals who can hold you accountable to this. If you feel yourself getting carried away, talk to them about your readjusting your expectations and your efforts.

2. Take Time to Volunteer

While you don’t want to overbook your holiday season, carving out time to volunteer can help you take your mind off your own stresses and concerns and remember a greater purpose around the holidays. Serving those who have less than you can truly put your holidays into perspective and help you restore your joy and comfort knowing you have made even just a small difference in the life of another person. From soup kitchens to toy drives, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer this time of year. You may want to take some time away to serve on your own or may even suggest serving with family and friends to bring a unified perspective to the holidays.

3. Avoid Holiday Depression Triggers

Are there certain people, places, or even Christmas songs that act as depression triggers for you? Don’t let these things creep into your holiday season! By heading off problems, you can help minimize the risk of triggering your depression and maintain a more joyful and consistent attitude. Whether that means you avoid your aunt’s big party this year or you opt to stay in a hotel room instead of a memory-filled house, make sure you think through triggers and create an alternative plan to avoid them. You may be surprised at how easily you can control and overcome these triggers without giving up your holiday fun!

4. Keep Your Schedule Lighter Than Usual

There is no denying the holidays can be stressful. With parties, social gatherings, gift shopping, school functions, and other festive events going on, it may be hard to find time to take a deep breath. With the holiday season seeming to drag on for weeks, don’t overbook your schedule. By keeping your weeks lighter than usual, you can take time to manage your depression and avoid common triggers. Even consider shopping online to avoid the hectic mall scene!

Having time to relax around the holidays is important too. Only go to parties or events you really want to go to and know you will enjoy. When you do hit up your cousin’s dreaded white elephant gift party, don’t stay longer than you want. For events you feel like you have to attend, just drop by for a few minutes and let your host know you have other engagements. Knowing you don’t have to stay at a party until the end of the evening can eliminate anxiety and make your experience less stressful.

5. Eat, Exercise & Stay Healthy

This time of year can be filled with distractions, hearty meals, and plenty of lengthy parties and visits. Don’t let yourself get out of healthy habits! You can enjoy those traditional meals but if you know certain foods can make you feel gross or effect your mood, opt for alternatives. Eating healthy, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising during this time of year can keep your mind alert and help you avoid a slump. With all the hustle and bustle, you may forget to take medication or keep up with appointments. Make sure you maintain your regular schedule and even consider setting up additional appointments with the team at Therapeutic Solutions. We offer specialized treatment options that can help mitigate the symptoms of depression without the use of drugs or medication.

If you feel sad around the holidays, be sure to acknowledge these feelings! While you shouldn’t force yourself to be happy this time of year, there are options for you to manage your depression and still enjoy the season.


Increased Risk for Suicide Following Hospitalization

There are numerous factors that put a person at a higher risk for suicide. Among those include depression, substance abuse, previous suicide attempts, and tragic life events. One of the most subtle and dangerous ones? Recent discharge from a hospital. People who have recently been discharged from psychiatric inpatient care are often at a much higher risk for suicide attempts immediately after their release, especially for the first few weeks.

What are some factors that can aggravate this?

  • Short (less than a week) admission prior to release
  • A recent adverse or tragic life event
  • Older age
  • Multiple connected psychiatric disorders

Women at Higher Risk Than Men

According to research, in the week following discharge from a psychiatric hospital, women are dramatically more at risk for a suicide attempt. In fact, they are 246 times more likely than average to commit suicide, while men are 102 times more likely during that first week. The chances still remain extremely high for the entire month (and often longer) following the discharge.

This increased risk does not necessarily mean that patient was released too soon or out of error. Since suicidal intent is fluid, it can be difficult to predict. Day to day a patient may feel completely different, having dark thoughts on a Tuesday and being completely stable on a Thursday. Due to the fact that the patient is getting psychiatric treatment, they are often at a higher risk for committing suicide to begin with.

What Can Be Done During this Crucial Stage?

In most cases, it is inevitable that a patient will be discharged once they have had adequate care. Like mentioned above, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t struggle with suicidal thoughts.

According to one study, 55% of suicides following hospital discharge occurred within the first week. Of those, 49% occurred prior to a first follow-up appointment. To help prevent tragic action on these thoughts, it is important for patients to get the care and supervision they need. Therapeutic Solutions’ partial hospitalization program can be extremely beneficial during this time.

During this program, patients get:

  • To return home to stay in a familiar and comfortable setting
  • Focused support and help in an outpatient setting
  • Personalized care from our behavioral health team
  • Consistent interaction and help with medication adjustments
  • Quicker attention than in traditional outpatient programs
  • To avoid expensive hospital costs

In addition to partial hospitalization, we also offer an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) designed to help patients transition upon discharge from full or partial hospitalization. It includes education and support for family members, help with ideas on how to manage symptoms for patients, and the freedom and ability to carry on with life while still receiving professional attention and care. This can be another key step in helping a patient’s symptoms become stabilized during this risky time.

Therapeutic Solutions is comprised of a team of board-certified psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists who have extensive training in behavioral health. If you or a loved one is facing an increased suicide risk, reach out to us today.