Holiday Mental Health Check

Dec 24, 2014

While the holidays may be called the most joyful time of the year, many people simply find them to be the most stressful.

Psychologist Paul Ascheman, the clinical director for United Community Services in Des Moines, says packed schedules can be both mentally and emotionally taxing.  He recommends focusing on aspects of the holidays that are important to you.

"And it’s also OK to say 'No' to things...it is alright to decline an invitation or to say, 'I have too many commitments,'” says Ascheman. "And if you show up to an event, and you find that it’s dysfunctional or you’re not being respected, then I think it’s OK to leave."

Ascheman also recommends keeping high expectations in check, since high expectations are difficult to meet. 

When it comes to people in recovery for drug and alcohol abuse, Ascheman says it’s important to form a plan before entering a situation where there may be alcohol. He says it might be helpful for a recovering alcoholic to alert the host prior to the party.

"Sometimes people will choose not to have alcohol at an event," says Ascheman. "Other times people in recovery may feel OK with it being present, as long as they’re not being pushed to drink."

Ascheman cautions that holiday gatherings are not a good time to stage an intervention or confront someone with drug or alcohol issues. He recommends family members approach the person in a private setting when they are sober.