Oh, Christmas. Twinkling lights, joyful reunions, sweet treats, merry carols…but if you’re like me, the holidays bring on waves of stress and heighten the symptoms of my mental illness. Even if you do not have a mental illness, it can be difficult remembering the loss of a loved one or handling increased pressures from friends and family. 64% of people say they are affected by feelings of anxiety and depression during the holidays (NAMI). These feelings might include: fatigue, tension, frustration, loneliness/isolation, sadness, or a sense of loss. Although for some these ‘holiday blues‘ are temporary, these problems must still be taken seriously because they can lead to long-term mental health complications.
Here’s some things to keep in mind:
1. Talk about it! Just like self-advocacy is important for those with mental illness to speak up for what we need/want, it is important to engage friends and family in discussions about your struggles. It can feel awkward, but it is important to be pro-active rather than reactive, meaning it’s better to be prepared than to end up in a worse place later on. Having these conversations also lets others know that it is no one’s fault; you just have to take care of you! It’s okay to not be okay!
2. Take breaks! There’s nothing wrong with taking some quiet time for yourself. With so many different places and people everywhere, it can be very overwhelming. Doing this various times throughout the day can help prevent uncomfortable feelings from sneaking up on you or building up and releasing in an negative way. Go for a brisk walk, read a couple chapters of a book, listen to a few tunes, or do some deep-breathing outside. Whatever small things you need to keep yourself balanced and relaxed. Give yourself permission to breathe.
3. Set reasonable expectations! Don’t strive for perfection; there is no such thing and it’s not worth it. It’s important not to overextend yourself-physically, emotionally, or financially. It’s okay to ‘say no’ to activities and events and keep it simple. Only you know what your limits are and these keep you safe and well. Stick to your normal routines as much as possible, get enough sleep, exercise, and don’t eat too many treats. Even if it is the holidays, your body, mind, and spirit will appreciate the consideration. Mindfulness matters!
If you need someone to talk to, call the WARMline at 1-866-661-WARM. You don’t have to go through this alone.
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