Navigating mixed emotions, stressors during the holiday season

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Thanksgiving is quickly approaching as the kickoff to a holiday season of good food, family time, time off work and fun.

While it is intended to be an enjoyable time, it can elicit mixed emotions and stress for people that should not be overlooked.

"I think it’s nice for people to come in with an awareness and appreciation that the holidays can have a mix of feelings and emotions, and it’s okay to experience all of those things during the course of it," Dr. Kristina Sowar, of UNM’s Department of Psychology, said.

Many people have lost someone close, have someone with underlying conditions who can’t be around in-person or just feel like something is missing. Each of these factors can lead to feeling the holiday blues..

"The pandemic and restrictions have shifted the comfort or hope people have had to look forward to holidays, in terms of restrictions or anxiety about getting sick or spreading illness to other people," Dr. Sowar said.

Stress can also come from trying to make the holiday season perfect or not enjoying the holiday season while growing up.

"For some people there can be a lot of sadness in terms of less happy things around the holidays," Dr. Sowar noted.

According to Dr. Sowar, one way to cope and regain the holiday spirit may be to understand what you love about the holiday season and focus time and energy on activities that can help.

Activities such as volunteering can help. If you are unable to be in public due to COVID-19 concerns, adopting a family virtually or helping out with Santa deliveries may compensate for that.

Dr. Sowar emphasizes that all people are different in how they handle the holidays and feel about the holiday season. Understanding this is as important as getting professional help when needed.

"They feel like they’re really feeling holiday blues and it’s to the extent that it’s preventing them from doing things they want to do with other people or it lasts beyond the holidays into the winter months – just thinking about seeking out mental health help or other support in the community."

As the pandemic lingers, a loss of normalcy persists so it is important to also take care of yourself during the holiday season.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or mental health issue, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

New Mexico Crisis Hotlines:

NM Crisis Line 1-855-662-7474
Text-to-Talk Crisis Line Text “HOME” to 741-741
Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
Trans Lifeline 1-877-565-8860
Agora Crisis Line 1-855-505-4505
Trevor Project 1-866-488-7386
Teens Helping Teens 1-800-TLC-TEEN