Feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious during the festival season is absolutely normal. The expectation to have a perfect celebration, the constant meeting of people, the need to have Instagram-perfect photos- all of it can cause mental strain. It can especially make it worse for someone who has underlying or pre-existing mental health conditions. When people around us are in a happy state of mind, it is natural that some others feel the pressure to be happy, making us feel sadder instead. For people who suffer from mental health conditions, this pressure may amplify them.
Festivals are usually the time when people are required to be at their best. When you visit your friends and family after a long time, it is usually during festivals. This adds pressure to look your best and be on your best behaviour. The financial pressure of gift-giving can add to the stress of the festival season too. Meeting with all your family and friends at once or repeatedly over the course of a few days can make it difficult for many. Sometimes, it makes things easy to take a few hours off alone for some “me-time”. But this too comes with the added complication of people finding you “rude” for doing that. To help avoid this, it is necessary to create awareness within friends and family that we each need space from time to time.
Anxiety can get triggered during the festive season. People with social anxiety disorder can get triggered easily during this time. Having to meet multiple people, sometimes people you haven’t met before, having to tell them details about your life because of certain ‘expectations’, having to make small-talk, and spend hours with them can add to the anxiety. Along with this, the loud noises and lights that come with the festive season can trigger an anxiety attack as well.
There are many stressors during this time, starting with the financial burden to give gifts, buy home décor, new clothes, food and drink for the multitudes of guests, etc can make one feel very overwhelmed. This stress can translate into poor gut health, bad mood, and irritability; which can ruin your holiday. For women especially, the festive season adds great burden. In India, women are expected to take care of all the house chores from cleaning to decorating, from cooking for the guests, to dressing up the kids and entertaining the guests. It is important to create a healthy coping mechanism for yourself, including your family in the preparations, and not letting expectations bog you down. Make sure you plan well in advance, spend your money wisely for your own sake instead of to impress your guests, stay hydrated, and eat right.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Some people may associate certain festive seasons to a traumatic event from the past, which might go as far back as their childhood days. For them, it is difficult to participate in any festive events. It is necessary that you communicate matters like this to people around you so that you not only spread awareness but also let people know that you need your space. PTSD can have many triggers which if not dealt with on time may lead to panic attacks, breathlessness, rapid heart rates, dizziness, etc. Thus, making sure that at least one or two people around you are aware of your situation is crucial.
People with depression may feel even more ‘blue’ during the festive season. It is mostly because everyone around us during this time seem happy and excited. The pressure to feel the same way might sometimes transform to a stressful sadness. For people with depression, this can go beyond sadness. They may isolate themselves during holidays. Sometimes after spending days with family for the holidays, leaving home to get back to your daily life can also have a heavy impact. It is recommended that people with depression get an evaluation done after a heavily demanding time such as this.
People with disorders like ADHD, Autism, etc can be extremely sensitive to crowds of people, lights and loud noises. With such people, it is necessary that we respect their boundaries and needs, calming them and allowing them their safe space.
To cope with festivals-time highs and lows, it is essential to create awareness about mental health within and family and friends. Added to that, we must keep in mind to not overthink about things and:
- To not isolate yourself during or especially after the festivities
- To seek help whenever needed
- To take time out for yourself when it all gets too much
- To not seek perfection in celebrations or photos
- To eat healthy and drink lots of water
- Avoid caffeine
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