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Navigating mental health during the holidays

For some people, the holidays cause more stress and anxiety, especially for those in recovery or people battling mental health issues.

AUSTIN, Texas — When many of us think of the holiday season, we may get excited at the thought of spending time with loved ones or attending holiday gatherings. But for some people, the holidays cause more stress and anxiety, especially for those in recovery or people battling mental health issues.

There are a variety of reasons why your holidays may not be cheerful. It can be the jam-packed social calendar, deadlines at work, the loss of a loved one, sunless winter days, or all of the above.

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, people say their stress increases during the holiday season, which can lead to physical illness, depression, anxiety and even substance misuse.

Experts say mental health is just as important as your physical health checkups. It should be treated like anything else you seek help for when it comes to you and your body.

Experts say it's good to accept these feelings of sadness and stress. Once you do, it'll be easier to address them.

“There's something very powerful that happens when we name our emotions," said Dr. Peace Amadi, a mental health professional and professor. "When we acknowledge what we are experiencing it, it unlocks a part of the brain that starts to go into healthy problem solving.”

There are ways in which we can prepare ourselves and hopefully deflect some of the increased stress of the holidays. It’s important to realize that we do have more control than we think we do. However, it’s equally important to realize that even if we put these ideas into practice and continue to feel overwhelmed or depressed, professional help is available.

Here's a list of mental health resources for anyone seeking help:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24/7 toll-free lifeline for individuals experiencing emotional distress or crises. 
    • Call 1-800-273-8255 to talk to a trained listener.
  • Crisis Text Line 
    • Text MHA 741-741
    • Crisis Text Line provides free, confidential text message support for individuals experiencing emotional distress or crises. It is available 24/7. 
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 
    • Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
    • SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
    • For more information, click here.

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