The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness for many. It's a time when friends and family gather, share laughter and memories, and exchange gifts to celebrate the year's end. However, for some individuals, the holidays can be a challenging and stressful time, particularly those who are already experiencing mental health barriers such as anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders. At Innerspace Counseling, we understand the importance of providing support and guidance during this season, especially for those enrolled in our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). In this blog, we will discuss the significance of creating "cope ahead plans" to help our clients effectively navigate the holiday season.
Understanding the Holiday Blues
The holiday season can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression for many people. The pressure to meet societal expectations, the reminders of past traumas, and the sometimes overwhelming gatherings can intensify these emotions. That's why at Innerspace Counseling, we encourage our clients to engage in proactive planning to cope with these stressors and maintain their mental well-being.
Introducing the Cope Ahead Plan
Our approach to holiday stress management involves creating a "cope ahead plan" with our clients. A cope ahead plan is a structured strategy designed to help individuals identify potential stressors and develop coping skills to manage them effectively. By anticipating and preparing for difficult situations, clients can feel more in control and confident during the holiday season.
Identifying Likely Stressors
The first step in creating a cope ahead plan is to identify the stressors that our clients are most likely to encounter during the holidays. These stressors can vary from person to person, but some common examples include:
- Feeling Lonely, Bored, or Ignored: This may occur when clients are alone during the holidays or in situations where they don't feel included.
- Feeling Triggered by Family Members: Family gatherings can sometimes bring up old conflicts and emotional triggers.
- Being Overwhelmed by Gatherings and Large Crowds: Social anxiety or sensory overload in crowded places can be especially challenging during the holidays.
Establishing Coping Skills
Once we've identified the likely stressors, the next step is to establish coping skills that our clients can use in these situations. We encourage our clients to work closely with their therapist to develop personalized strategies. Here are some examples:
- For Feeling Lonely, Bored, or Ignored: Clients can plan to reach out to friends or family members for a chat, engage in a hobby they enjoy, or watch uplifting content on platforms like YouTube to shift their focus.
- For Feeling Triggered by Family Members: Utilizing grounding techniques such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, or the 5,4,3,2,1 method can help clients stay grounded and manage emotional triggers when interacting with family.
- For Feeling Overwhelmed by Large Crowds: Clients can plan to excuse themselves from overwhelming situations when needed and take short intervals of alone time to recharge.
The Power of Planning
While cope ahead plans may not serve as a cure-all for holiday stress, they can significantly enhance an individual's ability to cope with challenging situations. By planning ahead, our clients are better equipped to face the unique challenges the holiday season can bring. Innerspace Counseling's commitment to providing effective tools and support is reflected in our use of evidence-based therapies like Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help individuals develop coping skills and manage their thoughts and feelings effectively.
The Role of Innerspace Counseling
At Innerspace Counseling, we are dedicated to offering comprehensive mental health care and treatment options. Our team of experienced therapists, psychiatrists, and counselors is here to support individuals dealing with various mental health issues. Whether it's anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders, our customized treatment plans are designed to address the unique needs of each client.
We understand that the holiday season can be particularly challenging, and for some, it may even bring up thoughts and feelings of despair. If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts or experiencing a crisis, please know that you are not alone. Reach out to us, or a trusted friend or family member, for support and assistance.
The holiday season is a time for warmth, love, and connection with friends and family. However, it can also be a source of stress and anxiety, especially for those with existing mental health problems. At Innerspace Counseling, we are committed to helping our clients create cope ahead plans to navigate the holiday season successfully.
By identifying likely stressors and establishing coping skills, our clients can approach the holidays with greater confidence and resilience. Remember that our team is here to provide the necessary support, whether through our IOP, PHP, or other therapy programs. Together, we can make this holiday season a time of healing, growth, and positive change.