Whew! It has been awhile since I have written a tip/trick. The last few months have been crazy, but not really in a good way. Oh well. The tip I’m writing about today has to do with this special time of year for people. This may be rather specific to people who are in the US and/or to people who celebrate certain holidays. Anyway, in the US most people have some holiday that they celebrate or they go on vacation or just have some time off. The major holidays are Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Kwanza, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Again, I know there are more holidays that I’m sure I’m missing, but these are the big ones. So, here is my tip:
11) Even though the holidays can be fun, they do add stress in our lives and for some people the stress of the holidays is enormous. So, always be mindful of taking time for yourself and your mental health during the holidays. Reach out to people if you need help and try to remember that the holidays will be over soon and your life will get back to normal. For those of us with mental health issues who are alone and feel isolated by not having friends or family to share our time with, we need to remember that we are NOT alone. There are people out there who care about us.
First, let me tackle the issue of stress while visiting friends and/or family. A lot of families like to gather together at these times of year, but that doesn’t always mean that everybody will get along like in a Norman Rockwell painting. Sometimes adults will go back and visit their parents and the parents will treat the adults like they are kids again. Some people have extended relatives and/or brothers and sisters that they have conflict with. This kind of family conflict is bad enough for anyone to deal with, but for people with mental illness, it can be literally overwhelming and may cause symptoms to flare up. So, if you have a mental illness, be extra kind to yourself. If you have to, tell people that you can’t participate in some events, parties or gatherings, then do what you need to to take care of yourself. It is okay to say no. If you are visiting someone else’s house for the holidays, try to make time for yourself to get some relaxation. One good way to get away from a busy house is to say that you need to go for a walk to clear your head. It shouldn’t be a big deal. Just go around the block a few times or something simple. Just getting away from the hustle and bustle for 10 minutes can be really refreshing.
I know that the pressure can be very intense for some people, but you need to keep in mind that this is a very time-limited thing. The holidays come and they do go again, and you can get through them. If you need to, tell people that you need to have some quiet time out away from everyone to help with your mental health. Find a quiet room or a café and read something or just relax with a cup of tea or coffee. I know this all sounds very silly and idealistic. I know that getting away with a cup of tea for 20 minutes isn’t going to take away all of the stress, but having moments to yourself can help a great deal. Also, remember that you can call your doctor, therapist, or even the hospital if your normal doctors are gone. I know you may not want to talk to anyone, but know that there are people out here if you need someone.
Another situation that may come up for some people is that they will be spending the holidays alone. This can be just as stressful and/or depressing as being surrounded by family and friends. Part of the problem related to having a mental illness is that it can sometimes isolate you, but you aren’t the only one, trust me on this! I know, TV makes it seem like everyone in the world has tons of friends and family, and then we look at our lives which may not be like that and we think we are extra weird or something. The truth is that there are a lot of people in the world who are alone and we just haven’t found each other yet.
It is difficult to be alone a lot. Humans are social creatures by nature and it is generally not all that great for people to be alone ALL the time. So, maybe this year if you are spending the holidays alone, you can reach out, at least electronically. If you are reading this, then chances are that you have an internet connection. So, you can get involved. Find a discussion group online to interact with or make friends with people on youtube or livevideo or try out stickam for the first time. I think last New Year’s Eve I was online and there were a bunch of us ringing in the new year from all over the world! It was kind of nice to have some people to ring in the new year with, even if it was via the internet!
Also, if you are alone, try getting out there and doing some holiday things if you can and if you want to. Even if you aren’t religious, it can be fun going to see holiday performances or all of the store windows that are decorated. Maybe you could volunteer for one or two days at a soup kitchen or for Meals on Wheels, the group that delivers food to homebound people. If you are homebound yourself, try to keep in mind you aren’t alone. Maybe make a special dinner just for yourself. Treat yourself to something nice and fun if you can.
I guess my overall message is: Be extra kind to yourself during the holidays and remember to make time for your own mental health. Be mindful of your triggers and make sure you take care of yourself first. Also know that the holidays come and they will go. You can survive this.
And please, whatever you do, don’t drink and drive. Be safe!