Holidays, a time when everyone around you is singing about how this is “the most wonderful time of the year” and when everything is supposed to be “merry and bright.”
But what about those people who aren’t feeling merry and bright. What if you are struggling regarding how to keep your children entertained for vacation, or stressed about family getting together, or sad that traditions are changing because of a recent loss. Everyone has their own personal history with holidays. We fantasize about what the holidays should look like, maybe even creating unrealistic expectations.
Sixty four percent of people with mental illness report holidays worsen their conditions. Around the holidays, society has this expectation that everyone must be happy and cheery 24/7. Society expects you to not snooze your alarm, to power through, to put a smile on your face, show up, and pretend you don’t feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. The truth is that the holidays are especially tough and not necessarily joyful for many. Navigating the peaks and valleys of life is a challenge.
Tips for all of those struggling during this holiday season (whether it is caused by financial stress, family stress, changes to traditions, loss of loved ones, entertaining the children during the holiday vacation, relationship conflict or other stressors):
- Validate your feelings — if you don’t feel positive all the time, remind yourself that your feelings are normal and that others may be struggling as well not feeling a holiday spirit. Set aside time to prioritize your mental and physical health. The best thing you can do to prepare yourself is by establishing boundaries for yourself to assure good balance and self-care.
- The pressure to be social, happy, and present can make it difficult to speak up if you feel otherwise. Normalize saying no for yourself.
- Prioritize the activities/events you are most excited about and perhaps sit out for the events that feel overwhelming or are creating stress.
- If you are suffering from grief or a loss, check in with yourself and set realistic expectations. Surround yourself with those that are supportive and understanding. Call up a friend or loved one, utilize a local support group and/or reach out to a professional mental health therapist.
- You may choose to not celebrate at all – and that is OKAY – here are things you can do by yourself:
- Deck the halls and make things cozy in your home
- Spend quality time with a friend
- Watch or go to movies
- Take a drive and look at the Christmas lights
- Bake or cook something that you enjoy for yourself or someone else
- Give yourself options!!!!!!!! Have a Plan A, Plan B, and a Plan C. Sometimes a plan to be alone is fine and can be a time to recharge, reflect and take care of yourself.
- Meeting the gift giving expectations can be stressful. Set your financial budget. Kindness, generosity and compassion for others can be given in non-material ways, such as a visit or baking. Decide how much you want to spend for each person, make a list, and stick to it. Determine your personal boundaries without self-criticism and personal judgment.
Enjoy your own description of “the most wonderful time of the year.”
Happy holidays from our family at the Wellness Institute to you.
If at any point during the holidays (and beyond), you or a loved one is struggling, please reach out to the Wellness Institute of MI to schedule a counseling session with one of our therapists.