Taking care of your mental health during the holidays

Local News

UTAH (ABC4) – Cooler temperatures and longer nights are just two signs the holiday season is here. For many, holidays can put stress on their mental health.

Health professionals in Utah remind residents of the Beehive State that it’s okay to not be okay. They also have some tips to help overcome the hurdles one may encounter during this time of year.    

“It’s important for us to allow ourselves to have these emotions and to be able to talk about them,” said Travis Mickelson, MD.

Dr. Mickelson is the medical director of mental health integration for Intermountain Healthcare. He told ABC4, the holidays are full of many strong emotions, and one should not feel bad for having negative ones during what is often referred to as the “most wonderful time of the year.” 

These emotions can range from joy to excitement, but there can also be feelings of grief, anxiety, stress, and depression.   

“They say like 30 plus percent of all people struggle with depression or anxiety, so it’s extremely common and there are a ton of resources out there,” explained Austin Goebel, DO.

Dr. Goebel is a psychiatrist at Ogden Regional Medical Center. He, like Dr. Mickelson, stressed the idea that people need to remember it’s okay to not feel your best during this time of year. They both told ABC4 that a good way to overcome some of those difficult emotions is to talk about them. 

If a person is prone to experiencing depression or anxiety during the winter months, they said it’s a good idea to let a friend or family member know who can lend a shoulder to lean on, or an ear to listen, when a rough patch hits.  

“I think it’s also a good strategy to focus on your routine,” Dr. Mickelson stated. “Make sure you’re maintaining a good, healthy routine.” That routine, he said, can include all the small tasks a person would do every day and include some tasks that one knows are beneficial to his or her mental health.

Dr. Goebel added: “Monitor your diet, exercise, if things like that don’t help, then you could reach out to a higher level of care.”  

Both experts explained that while a person is struggling with anxiety or depression, he or she should pay attention to the activities that help him or her feel the best and make them part of the routine. Dr. Goebel said it can sometimes be as simple as going outside to get some sun for a few minutes each day.  

Most importantly, Dr. Mickelson explained, is to trust oneself. “It’s a really scary thing when depression and anxiety make us believe that we’re not capable of handling things when I think the reality is we’re all really strong and have a lot of capacity to deal with a huge amount of stress. But sometimes we forget that.”  

Healthcare officials told ABC4 there has been an increased demand for mental health services throughout the pandemic. However, they said people have been more open to getting help, and more open about talking about their experience and their needs. 

Opening up about one’s feelings and needs, officials explained, is an important step to feeling better. If a person feels he or she needs additional help, Dr. Mickelson said his or her primary care physician is a great place to start.

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