The holiday season is usually thought of as a time of joy and thanksgiving; of gathering with family and friends to revel and give gifts to one another while enjoying delicious food and drink. For others, the holiday season is a time of sadness, loneliness, and pain.
The “holiday blues” are feelings of sadness and anxiety that usually last throughout the holiday season during November and December, and while not as serious as conditions such as clinical depression, the holiday blues can exacerbate the depression and anxiety that you are already experiencing. This time of the year can be difficult for men—especially African American men—who often feel that sharing their feelings with loved ones would not be the manly thing to do.
So, what can men do to improve their mental health during the holidays when there are already so many challenges to face? What can loved ones do when the men in their lives are having a difficult time regulating their emotions?
Understand the Signs
Understanding how men are affected by depression is the first step in learning to cope with it. Different men experience different symptoms, but there are usually a handful of symptoms common among men suffering from depression. Some of these symptoms include:
- Anger or irritability; aggression
- Anxiety, restlessness
- Self-medication with alcohol or drugs
- Isolation from family and/or friends
- Loss of interest in work, family, hobbies, and other activities once considered pleasurable
Knowing what symptoms to look for is only half the battle. The next thing that must be done is taking the steps needed to cope with these feelings in a healthy, safe, and effective manner. So, what is there to do to alleviate these symptoms during the holidays?
How to Cope
There are many ways for men to keep the holiday blues at bay and you may be surprised at how simple these methods are:
- Speak with a therapist, even if you don’t think your symptoms are extreme. Avoiding the conversations that will allow you to process your feelings and regulate your emotions will only make things worse.
- Avoid isolating yourself. Even if you don’t have family to celebrate the holidays with, it’s important to find ways to enjoy your social connections—don’t be afraid to reach out.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a depressant and will only make things worse, so limit your consumption to one or two drinks and at social functions only.
- Get some exercise. You don’t have to go hardcore every day, but even just one hour a week can help
This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s enough to get you on the right track.
The holiday season isn’t always easy to get through, and for men, it can sometimes feel unbearable experiencing a mental health crisis—especially when they’re taught to “grin and bear it.” Instead, we should strive to be open and honest about the way we feel.
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