Experts give advice on how to manage mental health and stress during the holidays

Posted at 11:08 AM, Nov 29, 2023

MILWAUKEE — The holidays can come with mixed emotions for many people. Along with joy, people may experience stress and feelings of disappointment or grief that can negatively affect mental health.

“The holiday blues is a very real phenomenon, and it really affects people living with mental illness,” Megan McLachlan, an education coordinator at the National Alliance on Mental Illness Wisconsin, said.

A survey by NAMI in 2021 showed that three in five Americans felt their mental health is negatively impacted by the holidays.

“Definitely during the holidays, we tend to see it exasperated,” John Fischer, a clinical supervisor at Rogers Behavioral Health, said.

“People have a very idealized perspective going into the holidays and that ideal perspective will often disappoint people.”

These mental health experts added that the holiday rush and expenses can add to the stress.

That’s why Fischer explained the importance of having a routine.

“We do well when we have a routine. During this time of year, the holidays, the routine is disrupted,” Fischer said. “A little thing you can do is ask yourself what important things can I stick to?”

Some of those important things include the fundamentals of day-to-day life.

“Try to sleep with a regular sleep schedule, spend time with the supportive people, and get outside to move your body,” McLachlan said.

Aside from routine and healthy habits during the dark days, these professionals emphasized the importance of leaning on those around you.

“You’re not alone. One in five people live with mental illness. One in four are family members and friends. We have to hold ourselves together in this time of darkness and joy,” McLachlon said.

There are a number of groups across the state that you can reach out to if you are struggling. NAMI Wisconsin has local NAMI affiliates across the state. To reach their helpline, you can call 800-950-6264 or text “HelpLine” to 62640. Other useful lines include Hopeline, Uplift WI, and Friendship Line.

If you are ever experiencing suicidal thoughts or a mental health crisis, 24 hour help is available at 9-8-8.