Coping with Holiday Stress: Tips to Start the New Year with a Healthy Mind
The Harris Center for Mental Health & IDD
As the holiday season unfolds and new year approaches, it brings with it a unique blend of joy and stress. While it's a time for celebrations and gatherings, the reality is that it can also usher in a wave of overwhelming emotions for many.
The pressure to create perfect holiday moments, combined with personal and family dynamics, can significantly impact mental health. From managing expectations to coping with the memories of lost loved ones, the festive season can be as challenging as it is cheerful.
In response to these complex emotional needs, The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD has stepped up with its Healthy Minds, Healthy Communities (HMHC) initiative. Alessia Parker, Community Engagement Coordinator, The Harris Center for Mental Health & IDD, says it’s not just about providing mental health support; it’s about weaving this support into the fabric of the community.
“It’s okay to not be okay,” says Alessia. “What’s important is to address it. Keeping that in can be detrimental.”
A Community-Driven Approach
Through HMHC, The Harris Center is redefining how mental health care is delivered, making it more accessible and attuned to the unique challenges faced by different communities, especially during the high-pressure holiday season. It is designed to be more than just a service provider; it's a partnership with the community. The initiative recognizes that mental health support is most effective when it's tailored to the unique needs and strengths of each community it serves.
HMHC began as a response to the widespread mental health needs identified during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in communities that have historically faced barriers to accessing behavioral health services. The initiative focuses on bringing mental health care directly into the community, making it both accessible and relevant to the people who need it most.
To achieve this, HMHC has zeroed in on ten key neighborhoods in Harris County. These neighborhoods — including Independence Heights/Northside, South Park, Doss Park/Mangum Howell, Aldine, Hardy/Melrose, Cypress Station/Kuykendahl, Acres Homes, Northeast/East Aldine, Katy (Harris County), and Pasadena — were chosen for their unique needs and the potential impact that targeted support could have. In each of these areas, HMHC created Community Learning Circles to understand and tap into the existing strengths and systems, uplifting and enhancing what already works in the community. It's a forward-thinking model that puts the power back into the hands of the community, ensuring that mental health support is not just something that is done to a community but something that grows organically within it.
Addressing Holiday Stressors
The HMHC’s Community Learning Circles have discovered how recognizing and preparing for potential stressors can be a critical step in maintaining emotional well-being during the holiday season.
“Being able to identify what specifically triggers stress is crucial,” says Alessia. “Once these triggers are recognized, individuals can better prepare themselves to face them.” This includes setting up boundaries, which could mean limiting spending, deciding not to attend certain gatherings, or being mindful of one’s own needs and limits.
It’s also important to develop your own coping skills during the holiday season. “This might involve identifying a family member or a friend who can offer support, finding personal stress relievers like exercise, hobbies, or mindfulness practices, or knowing when it’s time to step away from stressful situations,” says Alessia. It’s perfectly fine to leave an event early or take time for yourself as a healthy way of managing stress.
How to Seek Mental Health Support Through The Harris Center
The Harris Center provides a broad spectrum of mental health services for children and adults and intellectual disability services regardless of your ability to pay, which be especially helpful during the high-stress and challenging times like the holiday season. This includes individual counseling, group therapy, and specialized programs for children and adults, addressing a range of mental health issues, from anxiety and depression to more complex psychiatric conditions. The Center's approach is holistic, focusing not just on alleviating symptoms but on enhancing overall well-being and empowering individuals with the tools they need for long-term mental health.
For those in need of immediate assistance, The Harris Center offers 24-hour crisis lines. These lines are a crucial resource, offering instant access to support and intervention. The main support line at 713-970-7000 and the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline are staffed by trained professionals who provide confidential, compassionate support to anyone in crisis. These lines are a lifeline for individuals facing acute stress, providing a safe space to seek help at any time.