Holiday cheer and anticipation can take a toll on mental health for those not feeling so festive. Anxiety and depression can be directly associated with the Christmas blues among kids and adults. Additionally, stress from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic can add another layer.

Mental health experts Richard Whitaker and Emily Gordon said that the high expectations surrounding the holidays often lead to stress and anxiety. Additionally, financial burdens and large gatherings during the holidays tend to take a toll on people.

“Anybody who already has a mental health issue is likely to have an increase around the holidays,” says Emily Gordon, of Family Resources.

“There’s pressure to give gifts, so there’s a financial pull and then there’s pressure to attend events if there are complicated family dynamics or if there’s grief and loss and trauma,” added Gordon.

However, with all of these added layers, there are still ways to prioritize mental health all while remaining jolly during this time of the year.

“Spending time with other people is just as important if not more important than buying a gift,” said Whitaker.

Meanwhile, Gordon highlighted the importance of self-care. “It’s really important to take care of yourself when times are particularly tough. Do things that are going to give you some peace – things that help you reset – is really going to help,” she said. “For some people that might be reading or a holiday movie, or just sitting on the floor playing with your kids.”

If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental-health crisis this Christmas, you can call the Eastern Iowa Mental Health 24-hour crisis line at 844-430-0375.