By Heather Cruickshank
- Signs of holiday cheer can have a flip side for many dealing with loss, anxiety, or depression.
- Disruptions to your diet, exercise habits, and sleep schedule can also take a toll and lead to holiday blues.
- Experts say there are clear ways to cope including connecting with others, managing expectations, and practicing self-care.
The holiday season is a joyful time for many people — but it can also be a harbinger of stress.
For those who are coping with loneliness or grief over the loss of a loved one, holiday traditions and activities may heighten feelings of isolation and sadness.
Buying gifts, making food, traveling, and managing other holiday responsibilities can also strain people's emotional and financial reserves.
Disruptions to your diet, exercise habits, and sleep schedule can affect your physical and mental health, too. Even seasonal reductions in sunlight can take a toll.
If you find yourself struggling with feelings of stress, anxiety, or sadness, you're not alone. Here are five strategies that may help you ward off the holiday blues this year.
1. Connect With Others
If you struggle with feelings of isolation, loneliness, or sadness around the holidays, reaching out to family members and friends may help.
"For those persons who experience loneliness or depression during the holiday season, it's especially important to reach out to family and friends," Mona Shattell, PhD, RN, FAAN, a mental health specialist and professor of nursing at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, told Healthline.
"These individuals should strive to connect in real life with one person per day," she continued. "Call a friend on the phone, make a plan to meet someone for a walk or for coffee — anything that connects the person to another person."
If you don't have a lot of people to call or visit, volunteering for a local organization may give you the chance to meet new people and strengthen your connections with your community.
"Doing something meaningful for others can help mediate loneliness, depression, and stress during the holidays," Shattell said.
"Taking part in a service project or volunteering for your favorite organization can help one feel less alone, less stressed, and more alive," she added.
2. Acknowledge Feelings of Loss
For people who are grieving the loss of a loved one, certain holiday traditions or memories may serve as a reminder of their absence.
Rather than try to suppress feelings of sadness, it may help to acknowledge them and take time to commemorate the person you've lost.
"For people who are experiencing grief over the death of loved ones, especially those who have died since the last holiday season, it is helpful to acknowledge the loss and celebrate the life as it was lived, the memories that remain," Shattell said.
You might find it comforting to establish a new holiday tradition in their honor. On the other hand, you might decide to skip other traditions or activities that are too painful to participate in without them.
Give yourself freedom to choose how you'll mark the holiday and your loved one's memory, recommends the Hospice Foundation of America.
3. Manage Expectations
Setting realistic expectations is essential for limiting stress.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, it's okay to scale back on your holiday decorations, baking goals, or social calendar. Rather than taking on everything, the American Psychological Association (APA) recommends prioritizing the tasks and activities that are most important to you.
Sticking to a holiday budget may also help limit stress by reducing financial strain. Don't spend more money on gifts or activities than you can afford.
If you find yourself struggling to meet the expectations of other people, it's important to recognize and communicate your needs and limits, Brett Marroquín, PhD, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University, told Healthline.
"I tend to talk to patients about interpersonal effectiveness skills, ways to communicate with partners, with adult parents, and with families that have to do with clearly asserting your needs, being really clear about what your needs and your emotions are, and having boundaries," Marroquín said.
"What can I fulfill? What do I need to do to take care of myself? Communicating all those things," he continued.
4. Practice Self-Care
Although it might not be your number one priority during the holiday season, practicing healthy habits is important for maintaining good mental health.
"Basic stuff like keeping a healthy diet, keeping up your exercise, keeping up the activities you typically do, including the positive activities that you just enjoy doing, and not letting the stressful stuff sort of overwhelm all that and supersede all of that — it creates the foundation for healthy coping," Marroquín said.
Try to get enough sleep, get some exercise, and moderate your intake of holiday treats.
It's also best to avoid consuming alcohol when you're feeling stressed or blue, advises Dr. Ken Duckworth, MD, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
5. Plan Ahead
Whatever holiday stressors you expect to encounter, planning ahead may help you cope.
For some people, that might mean blocking time off in their calendars to shop when they expect grocery stores or malls to be less busy.
For others, it might mean planning a special activity or gathering with friends on a day when they anticipate feeling lonely or sad.
"If you know that Christmas Day or New Year's Eve is a particularly stressful time for you, maybe because of a loss that happened around that period or because you've always spent time with your grandpa and he's gone now," Marroquín said, "is there something you can do on that day, is there something you can plan with other family members for that day?"
"A lot of the research is really clear," he continued, "that when you're active in planning coping in advance for challenges you know are coming, the better off you're going to be."
- The Great Christmas Tree Debate: Is It Better to Buy a Real Tree or a ... ›
- Why Drinking Can Make You Feel Extra Anxious Over the Holidays ... ›
By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
- 7 Republicans Joined Senate Democrats in Vote to Fight Climate ... ›
- Climate Change Acknowledged by Increasing Number of ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday that 64 high-income nations have joined an effort to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine fairly, prioritizing the most vulnerable citizens, as Science reported. The program is called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, and it is a joint effort led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine ›
- CDC Tells States to Prepare for a Vaccine Before November Election ›
- Fauci Warns Pre-Pandemic Normalcy Not Likely Until Late 2021 ... ›
By Gloria Oladipo
In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air conditioned cooling centers. Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.
Toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria was likely responsible for more than 300 elephant deaths in Botswana this year, the country's wildlife department announced on Monday.
How Did Cyanobacteria Poison the Elephants?<p>Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms common in water and sometimes found in soil. Some cyanobacteria produce neurotoxins.</p><p>The cyanobacteria "was growing in pans" or watering holes, the principal veterinary officer of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Mmadi Reuben, told reporters.</p><p>Reuben said the deaths had "stopped towards the end of June 2020, coinciding with the drying of pans."</p><p>"However we have many questions still to be answered such as why the elephants only and why that area only? We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating," added Reuben.</p><p>Similar elephant deaths have also been recorded in neighboring Zimbabwe.</p>
Climate Change to Blame?<p>Not all cyanobacteria are toxic but scientists say varieties dangerous to humans and animals are occurring more frequently as climate change drives up global temperatures.</p><p>Southern Africa's temperatures are rising at twice the global average, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.</p>
Elephant Paradise?<p>Africa's overall elephant population is declining due to poaching. But Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent's elephants, has seen numbers grow to around 130,000.</p><p>Botswana's government said it was continuing studies into the occurrence of the deadly bacteria. In the winter, elephants hydrate themselves mainly by eating roots and bark, especially of the baobab tree.</p>
- Hundreds of Botswana's Elephants Are Dying From Mysterious Cause ›
- How Botswana's Sudden Elephant Deaths Impact the Species ... ›
- In 'Conservation Disaster,' Hundreds of Botswana's Elephants Are ... ›
By Alexandra Villarreal
As West coast wildfires color the skies dystopian red and orange and an aggressive hurricane season batters the U.S. Gulf coast, college students are demanding their schools take bold action to address the climate crisis.
- NYC Public Schools to Excuse Climate Strikers - EcoWatch ›
- Portuguese Youth Activists Sue 33 Countries Over Climate Crisis ... ›
- Students Rally for Fossil Fuel Divestment at Ohio State University ... ›