Tips for Navigating the Holidays When Coping with a Mental Health Condition – Interview

Tips for Navigating the Holidays When Coping with a Mental Health Condition – Interview

The holiday season can be a joyous time of year, but it can also be a stressful time for many people.  

Whether it’s financial worries over a long gift list,

anxiety about difficult family dynamics, exhaustion from juggling a hectic schedule, or loneliness being apart from loved ones due to these unprecedented times, emotions are often heightened at this time of year and mood changes are common.1

Even people with no history of mental illness

may feel confused about whether they are experiencing the temporary feelings of “depression” associated with the “holiday blues” or if symptoms may be something more serious that should be discussed with their healthcare provider.

And for the 1 in 5 Americans who are living with pre-existing mental health conditions, research shows that the holidays can be particularly challenging.2 In fact, 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse.

This can be especially true for people who struggle

with certain mental health conditions that can be exacerbated by stress. For those living with bipolar I disorder, for example, stress, sleep disruption, and heightened emotional reactions to their environment—all common around “the most wonderful time of the year”—can trigger both manic and depressive episodes,3,4 so it’s important that people work to manage stress and monitor symptoms closely.

Ensuring that you have access to speak to your psychiatrist when you are away with family or friends for the holidays is so important if you hope to ensure that you stay on the right track. Your mental health doesn’t just change just because you’re around family and people you love. In fact, it’s often the case that your mental health can be worse because you’re away from your routines. Knowing that you have someone to talk to is going to make a massive difference to your overall mental health in the holiday season.

Join me in a recent interview with Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner,

Dr. Jessica Whelan, as she discusses why the holiday season can be particularly challenging for people living with mental health conditions like bipolar I disorder, the difference between holiday blues and bipolar I disorder, and a treatment option people living with bipolar I disorder can discuss with their doctors.

Hear the entire interview here:

For more information, go to



Dr. Jessica Whelan has extensive experience in the mental health field and has served as a speaker and advisory board member in the areas of nursing leadership, psychopharmacology, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia, tardive dyskinesia, pseudobulbar affect, binge eating disorders, autism spectrum disorders, psychopharmacogenomics, epigenetics as well as genetic testing, to name a few.

Dr. Whelan is the owner and CEO of a national network of clinicians with Holon Inclusive Health System and adjunct faculty at Maryville University.  She supports multiple universities to provide clinical mentorship for medical and nurse practitioner students.

She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Missouri Columbia and her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes Jewish College in St. Louis. She received her Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Missouri Columbia and her Doctorate in Nursing Practice at the University of Missouri St. Louis.

Her Master’s project consisted of an appraisal of literature regarding NMDA receptor antagonism in the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, and her doctoral project was an evaluation of nurse practitioner-led care in psychiatry in comparison to care led by a psychiatrist.

She has assisted in activities such as the development of mental health Intensive Outpatient Programming as well as clinical documentation to prepare inpatient psychiatric units for Joint Commission Accreditation.

Forms that have been developed specifically by her at each of these facilities have been recognized by the Joint Commission as some as the best in the field. She has published in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

As a nurse, she has worked in multiple areas including community mental health, inpatient psychiatric units including adult, acute adult, geriatric, and child, and adolescents.

In addition to her extensive experience in psychiatry, she has also worked as a nursing supervisor and as part of an acute care float team gaining experience on multiple inpatient medical units.

Despite her own struggles with autism, throughout her training and career, she has received several scholarships, honors, and awards.

Her most recent award was given from the University of Missouri St. Louis, where she served as an honorary adjunct faculty member through 2019, for her dedication as a Preceptor. She is a policy and political advocate and participates in multiple organizations to support relevant healthcare legislation.

In 2019, she was recently recognized and published by the American Nurses Association as part of their Year of Advocacy.

Jessica also is recognized as an industry and national thought leader and has been invited to be an advisory board member for psychiatric research and development companies such as Sunovion, Allergan, Abbvie, Teva, and Avanir.

As an advocate for neuroscience nomenclature and routine use of psychopharmacogenomics in practice, she speaks for Genomind and is a member of the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics.

She has sat on the standard-setting panel for the American Nurses Credentialing Center for the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Exam and contributed to the formation of a Nurse Practitioner Specific website created by Allergan/Abbvie.

She has also taken part in industry publications, is part of the APNA task force for Personality Disorders, and has participated as a co-host on a local health radio show, The Health Beat, in St. Louis.

*Dr. Jessica Whelan is a compensated spokesperson for AbbVie.


  1. Mental Health and The Holiday Blues. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Accessed November 17, 2020.
  2. Mental Health By the Numbers. November 17, 2020.
  3. Bipolar Disorder. Accessed November 17, 2020.
  4. Bipolar disorder. August 18, 2020. Accessed November 17, 2020.

Cynthia Tait

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