‘Tis The Season to Focus on Your Mental Health


Newswise — The holidays are usually a time for joy and celebration. But, this merry season can be stressful for some folks. According to a poll by the American Psychiatric Association, Americans are five times more likely to say their level of stress increases rather than decreases (41% to 7%) during the holidays. Johns Hopkins Medicine experts can provide tips for managing your mental health amid the bustle of the holiday season.

The Holiday Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder: What’s the difference?

For some people, the holidays can trigger feelings of sadness, loss and anxiety associated with stress, missing loved ones or negative feelings from past memories of the holidays. These feelings are considered the holiday blues, and are usually temporary.

However, when the holiday blues persist for a longer period of time, it could be seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that can happen during certain seasons of the year, typically fall or winter. Symptoms may include low mood or anxiety that worsens in the winter, as well as changes in sleep, appetite and energy. SAD can impact a person’s ability to work, their social interactions and quality of life. Lindsay Standeven, M.D., and Paul Nestadt, M.D., assistant professors of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, are available for media interviews about the holiday blues and SAD, and can provide tips on how to cope and help ease the symptoms.

Older children and teens may also experience SAD. Johns Hopkins Children’s Center clinical psychologist Joseph McGuire, Ph.D., M.A., is available for interviews to discuss the signs and symptoms parents should look out for to best help their children.

In addition, Neda Gould, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Mindfulness Program, is available for interviews on the following topics:

Holiday Self-Care for Caregivers

For those taking care of a loved one with a mental illness, caregiving can be physically and emotionally exhausting — and particularly taxing during the holidays. According to an AARP survey, nearly 7 in 10 caregivers say it is stressful to care for their loved one during the holiday season. To cope and avoid burnout, Gould can discuss how mindfulness can help caregivers stay in the present and de-stress over the holidays.

Taking the Stress Out of Holiday Shopping

Gift-giving can be fulfilling, but it might be a source of anxiety and economic distress. According to a poll from the American Psychiatry Association, adults are most likely to be worried about affording (46%) and finding (40%) holiday gifts. If the pressure of finding the perfect gift is getting to you, Gould can provide tips to keep in mind while holiday shopping.

Making and Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

How many times have you made a New Year’s resolution and given up on it after a few months? Whether it’s to exercise, eat healthier or quit smoking, making a realistic plan and identifying potential obstacles might be the answer to make your resolutions a reality. Gould can discuss how to set attainable goals for the new year.