DDPHE Blog: Mental Health for the Holidays

Published on December 15, 2023

There are so many great things about the holiday season: getting together with friends, the excitement around special occasions and more. But along with the good can come the bad: loneliness, grief, anxiety and frustration, which can make things far from merry and bright.

If you struggle with mental health during the holidays, you are not alone: going into the 2022 holiday season, data from the American Psychiatric Association showed nearly a third of Americans reported they anticipated being more stressed out that holiday season than the previous year. Some of the holiday stresses they reported were financial stress from gift purchasing, affording holiday meals and spending time with family members. Regardless of how you’re feeling this holiday season, help is available and the Denver Department of Public Health & Environments (DDPHE) wants to remind our community of healthy habits and resources for residents: 

Don’t go it alone

It is important to get support from friends, family, coworkers, and mental health professionals if you need it. The holidays can be a stressful time. You are not alone. There are many resources available locally and nationally that offer supportive services that address mental and behavioral health. If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. 

  • Colorado Crisis Services offers support for people who are experiencing a mental or behavioral health crisis. Text “TALK” to 38255 or call 1-844-493-8255 This service is free, confidential, and available 24-hours a day, seven days a week. 
  • 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available for those in crisis. Services can be accessed by calling or texting 988, or by chat at 988lifeline.org. 988 offers 24/7 access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing mental health-related distress. That could be thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crises, emotional distress or any other reasons to connect.
  • The Colorado Walk-In Crisis Center at 4353 E. Colfax Ave Denver, 80220 is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Licensed clinicians offer confidential, in-person support, information and referrals to anyone in need. They see children, adolescents, young adults, families and adults. Other locations are available in the Denver metro area in Aurora, Boulder, Littleton, and Wheat Ridge.  
  • The Crisis Text Line offers free 24/7 support through text, chat and WhatsApp. Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a volunteer crisis counselor.
  • The Colorado Department of Human Services’ Office of Behavioral Health’s provider database can help you locate behavioral health treatment near you. 
  • Mental Health First Aid offers additional tips and resources for year-round well-being management and offers a skills-based training course that teaches participants about mental health and substance-use issues. 

Learn more about DDPHE’s work to improve mental and behavioral well-being in Denver at Denvergov.org/CommunityHealth.

Maintain a healthy routine and set boundaries  

Getting a good night’s rest, staying hydrated, incorporating movement – like walking or stretching – can help stabilize your mood, reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and improve long-term mental well-being. Make or schedule time for yourself. Do not be afraid to set healthy boundaries, including taking time for yourself. Scheduling time to go for a walk alone, to read, or to exercise will leave you feeling more energized and will improve your mood. 

You can’t (and shouldn’t) control everything. Focus on what you can. When you focus on what you can control, like your mindset, your attitude, and your actions, you can instead feel confident, empowered, and energized. Consider making a list of what you can control and refer to it when you start to feel anxious. 

Support others by choosing your words carefully 

Stigma is one of the biggest challenges people with mental health conditions face. Stigma is a negative belief, treatment or prejudice toward a group of people often based on stereotypes or assumptions. Studies in Colorado and across the U.S. have found that poor mental health is on the rise and accessing care is still a struggle for many.   

Support your friends and family this holiday season (and year round) by thinking carefully about the words you use when you speak about mental health. DDPHE’s What You Say Matters campaign addresses sources of stigma and provides alternatives to language that is stigmatizing.  

Check out the language guide to learn what to say to support people experiencing mental health conditions.  

Support and tips for those in recovery and maintaining sobriety

For those in recovery, the holidays can be a time of high stress, making them more vulnerable to relapse. Maintaining sobriety during the holidays can feel like a full-time job. As many celebrations center around alcohol, the holidays are a good opportunity to start new traditions like baking, caroling, or volunteering to participate in the spirit of the season. Volunteering is a great way to stay busy, connect with others, and practice gratitude.  

Between family reunions, work festivities, and parties with friends, you can feel pressure to attend every event. Plan on only attending events that truly interest you to avoid extra stress. When you attend a party, bring your own water, soda, or make a holiday mocktail from online recipes. If possible, drive yourself to the event so you can leave at a time that works for you. 

More information on maintaining sobriety during the holidays is available through the Addiction Policy Forum.

DDPHE offers free overdose prevention resources, including naloxone and fentanyl test strips, for all Denver residents.  

Honor your grief 

The holiday season isn’t always happy and can be triggering for those who have lost a loved one. The Family Advocacy Support Team (FAST) at Denver’s Office of the Medical Examiner provides tips for managing grief at the holidays for people who have experienced loss.  

Remember, it’s okay to feel anxious and know you’re not alone in feeling this way. There isn’t a right or wrong way to approach the holidays after loss. Be present with the people around you. And be kind to yourself. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings, instead of ignoring them.  

Create a list of coping skills you can rely during these moments. Activities like breathing deeply, taking a walk, practicing meditation, and listening to music can help you process your feelings. 

You’ll find more advice here on grief and the holidays