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What happens in December with our mental health?

December is a month many look forward to, with unique events like family gatherings, celebrations, and delightful foods. However, some prefer solitude, avoiding these situations as they anticipate the upcoming year. Why the contrast? What gives December its significance with such opposing perspectives?

December brings with it two holidays that most families around the world celebrate: Christmas and New Year. However, many people spend these dates alone, even though it is a time inherently associated with greater social contact.

People assign different meanings to their experiences. Often, they avoid social gatherings, refraining from hugs and congratulations because these actions deviate from their traditional understanding of festivities. Perhaps, this avoidance stems from negative associations with past experiences.

These dates bring both good and bad outcomes. People react based on their past experiences. For some, it means dealing with economic pressures like buying gifts and handling invitations and extra food. Some families also feel heightened grief during this season, missing loved ones who passed away during the year.

Some people have high expectations for these festivities, causing anxiety about meeting them or feeling dissatisfied. There's also social pressure to stay constantly happy, which paradoxically prompts us to question: ‘Why am I not as happy as others?’

Christmas and Mental Health

Over time, it has been a subject of interest to see if there is a higher incidence of cases of people with depression, anxiety, and cases of suicidal ideation this month.

Some sources report more suicides, while others link a decrease to increased social engagement, reconnecting families. Sharing with others can help resolve issues, assist those in need, make significant donations, or invite acquaintances spending the holidays alone.

Christmas beckons a moment of deep introspection for many. Families ponder whether they've made the right decisions throughout the year and question whether they've bestowed the rightful attention upon their loved ones and acquaintances.

How, then, to face Christmas?

Despite drastic changes in the weather or past unpleasant experiences, even during challenging times, we can begin to analyze our current state. Asking ourselves whether our emotions align with the context can be helpful. Asking ourselves if our emotion is congruent with the context can help us.

  1. Sit with a calm mind: Observe and evaluate why it is normal to feel this way at this moment and not at another (being cautious of self-invalidation or negative self-judgment). Emotions don't appear without reason; they have a cause.
  2. Share your thoughts: It's a privilege to talk to someone we trust, someone who won't dismiss our discomfort. That person can help us identify if we are reacting too intensely to a situation.
  3. Give new meaning to the season: Create new strategies to connect. Keep in mind the reasons behind your actions and give purpose and meaning to what moves us during these times.

Conclusion

If we understand why we feel fear, sadness, or joy, let's permit ourselves to experience those emotions in the moment. If we eventually realize they have no connection to the current situation, it's better not to cling to memories of the past that evoke deep nostalgia when recalled.

Let's make this December meaningful. Reach out to friends, neighbors, or even strangers. A small gesture can make a huge difference for someone going through a tough time with their mental health.

  • APA.org: The American Psychological Association (APA) provides its website visitors with a wide range of information and resources related to psychology, including research, publications, educational materials, and information about the organization itself. Website: apa.org
  • Child Mind Institute: Child Mind Institute's website provides information about their healthcare services, facilities, medical professionals, patient resources, and more. Website: childmind.org
  • NIMH: On the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website, you can find a wealth of information related to mental health, research findings, treatment options, and resources for individuals, families, and healthcare professionals. Website: nimh.nih.gov

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