The Holidays Can Be Challenging

For those impacted by mental illness, the holidays can be especially challenging. Being away from regular routines, having the temptations of unhealthy eating or drinking, memories of loss and other traumas and high expectations can create stress that can seem insurmountable.

According to a study by NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of those with a mental illness identified the holidays as seeming to make their mental health condition worse. Although the holidays are exciting and joy-filled times for some, others feel lonely and anxious. Depression can weigh heavy on people who cannot seem to connect with others or whose support systems are not as accessible during the holiday season. For someone with mental illness, this can be the perfect storm for difficulties maintaining positive mental health.

Here are some ways to make the holidays easier:

  1. Easy does it! If you can limit time at parties, letting the hosts know ahead of time, you can reduce some stress for yourself. If you are the host, plan on “less than perfect” and try to have fun. Invite those who bring you joy and are supportive. You don’t have to schedule something every day. A few days just for you, may be just what you need to regroup from activity-filled days.
  2. Accept that the holidays are different for you than some others you may know. You probably know your triggers. With this information in mind, you can prepare for additional counseling support before the holidays so you can be ready with coping skills and ideas for managing your feelings.
  3. Start a gratitude tradition. Begin the holiday with cards or letters thanking special people for all the ways they have supported you through the year and all the ways they have helped you be your best. Gratitude is healing and can actually improve both physical and mental health. Your gratitude letters may also encourage people to support you even more through the holidays.
  4. Routines can help. Create a holiday calendar so things are not left undone and so you can clearly see whether you are sliding into a holiday habit of over-booking. Remember saying no is ok. Maybe you can say no to something now and book it for after the holiday. This may help you avoid the holiday let down of having nothing to do after all the excitement of the season ends.
  5. Keep in mind that you can only be in charge of you and your own behavior. You cannot control, nor are you responsible for the behavior of others. Limit your time with those who create difficulties for you. Keep yourself healthy by creating healthy boundaries.
  6. To be healthy, you must “do” healthy. Eat well, sleep enough, exercise, connect with support or a faith-based community, avoid drugs or alcohol and be honest with yourself about how you are feeling.
  7. Don’t discount the benefits of professional support. When things overwhelm you and it begins to impact work/school, relationships or how you manage your day, perhaps a wellness check would be a good choice.

Overall, the holidays should be a joy-filled time of the year. By putting some of these suggestions into place, you may just find that you are having a good time, creating new, fun memories and looking forward to next year.

If you are finding that the holidays are painful times, please don’t suffer through it alone and without support. Let the caring and professional team at Lake Behavioral Hospital help you by providing a free, confidential assessment that will determine a level of support that will meet you where you are at in this moment and time. Call us 24/7/365 at 855-990-1900. We are here to help.