Our mental health is as important as our physical health in our daily lives. The state of our mental health influences everything – from our thoughts, actions and emotions. It can affect our relationships, our work, and even our physical health – but so many of us are uncomfortable talking about it and managing it, and many of us often neglect it completely. However mental illness isn’t visible like a broken bone or other physical illnesses, it’s invisible and invisible illnesses are too often misunderstood, dismissed and ignored. Yet up to two-thirds of people report having a mental health problem. As a result, we must continue to raise awareness of mental health challenges and work to eliminate the stigmas associated with them.
Mental health challenges during the festive season
As we approach the festive season, it’s important to recognise and address the various mental health challenges that can arise during this time, including financial pressures, family dynamics, and feelings of loneliness which can frequently result in stress, anxiety and depression.
One of the leading stressors during the festive season is often financial strain. Many can face financial pressure to participate in exchanging gifts, travelling, attending gatherings or hosting events which can be overwhelming. Some people can find themselves entangled in the trap of overspending, leading to debt and financial hardship.
This can often cause great stress to an individual. Stress, unlike anxiety or depression, is not classified as a mental illness. It represents a state of mental or emotional strain arising from challenging experiences, yet it can profoundly impact mental health. Key indicators of stress can include emotional changes, alterations in behaviour, and changes in physical health. Vigilance in monitoring these aspects is crucial, and a combination of all three may serve as a warning sign. Failure to address prolonged stress can escalate into more serious problems and contribute to the development of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
Although the festive period can be a time for family bonding, it can also present particular difficulties for family dynamics. Tension and stress can arise from conflicting personalities, unresolved issues, and unfulfilled expectations. During this time, when expectations for family time are high, finding a balance can sometimes be hard.
These circumstances can make some people feel very anxious. Anxiety manifests as a sense of tension, worry, or fear, particularly regarding potential future events and is the second most common mental health concern in the UK. Occasional anxiety can be common, especially during efforts to adapt to stress or life changes. However, for many individuals, anxiety transforms into a daily struggle, often causing significant distress. Physically, anxiety may manifest as tremors or pins and needles, mentally through excessive thinking or worrying, and emotionally by instilling feelings of fear or threat. There are various anxiety-related conditions, including phobias, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder, amongst others.
Feelings of loneliness
Whilst family dynamics can cause challenges to some, there are also many people that can experience profound feelings of loneliness during this time. Being apart from loved ones, the loss of family or friends, or not having any social ties can contribute to a sense of isolation. Loneliness isn’t a mental illness per se, but its repercussions can significantly impact mental well-being, potentially escalating into more serious issues. The isolation stemming from loneliness can often lead to depression, creating a cycle that intensifies feelings of solitude.
Depression is extremely common; it is currently the most common mental health illness in the UK and one of the most common illnesses worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning that unless urgent action is taken, depression will become the predominant contributor to the global disease burden by 2030.
Those suffering from depression may feel constantly sad and often hopeless, they may be persistently tired, have trouble sleeping or lose interest in things they would normally enjoy doing. Sometimes there is a trigger but sometimes there is no obvious cause and depression can creep up on people. Depression, if left unaddressed, can lead to devastating consequences. It’s crucial for individuals to reach out for support, whether confiding in someone they trust for support and connection, through friends and family, colleagues, a healthcare professional or seeking support from within their local community.
Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
For some, this time of year can also bring about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs at a specific time of year, typically during the winter months. Shorter days and a lack of sunlight can affect peoples energy and mood. Managing SAD requires identifying its symptoms and getting help from a professional, such as light therapy or counselling.
What support we can offer to those experiencing mental health challenges
Before we can start to address how to support those struggling with mental health challenges we need to first recognise and understand them. While we have touched upon a few mental health challenges, we have only really scratched the surface, considering that there are over 200 diagnosable mental illnesses.
A range of support is available for those facing mental health challenges, aiming to provide assistance and promote well-being. Mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and counsellors can offer therapeutic interventions tailored to individual needs. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is a an effective talking therapy, can be used to help with quite a few mental health illnesses to challenge mindset and thoughts and train the mind to create new positive patterns. Some people may require medication to help them manage their anxiety and depression and keeping physically healthy is also a crucial part of keeping mentally healthy too. Various charities, community-based organisations and online platforms offer resources, support groups, and educational materials to enhance awareness and coping strategies. Additionally, helplines and crisis intervention services provide immediate support for those in acute distress.
Furthermore, employers should increasingly recognise the importance of mental health in their staff, providing access to counselling services and support. Collaborative efforts between healthcare providers, community organisations, and society as a whole contribute to building a supportive network for individuals navigating mental health challenges.
We know the festive season can be a challenging time for mental health, but with awareness, understanding, and proactive strategies, individuals can navigate the stressors more effectively. By acknowledging the mental health challenges that can arise during this period, we pave the way for open conversations which will hopefully lead to better support for those that need it.
Mental Health challenges in the workplace
Did you know? Poor mental health is estimated to cost UK businesses up to 42 billion pounds per year. Yet for every £1 invested in improving mental health, an organisation receives an average of £4.20 in return? This is because a mentally and physically fit and healthy workforce produces more happy, hardworking and productive employees. It’s in everyone’s best interests to look after each others physical and emotional needs.
To find out more about our Mental Health Awareness Training please follow the links below. All our Mental Health Awareness courses come with resources and a Wellbeing Toolkit which includes mini exercises, insights and practical strategies that can be used to manage day-to-day mental health.
Our Mental Health Awareness Training raises awareness of ill-mental health (particularly stress, depression and anxiety), provides tools and guidance for daily wellbeing-management, and aims to remove the stigma surrounding mental health.
Our Mental Health Awareness Training for Managers is designed to make management teams aware of mental health issues and illnesses inside and outside the workplace. It provides wellbeing-management techniques and aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health at work.
Why not reflect on your learning from this article as part of your continuing professional development (CPD). Click below to fill out a short form which can be emailed to yourself for your own records.
CPD Reflective Practice
To read more articles like this please sign up to our free weekly blog by visiting our HealthEd Blog Page. Click the image below and scroll to the bottom to submit your details.