Living with mental illness often makes daily life difficult. The holidays can present their own set of challenges when it comes to dealing with mental health diagnoses. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, almost two-thirds of people with a mental illness report their conditions becoming worse during holidays. Mental health awareness experts recommend people who deal with this issue make time to consider the impact of the holidays on themselves and plan for success.
The Pressure to Enjoy the Holidays
Advertising and the world of entertainment push the idea that holidays should be full of joy and good times. Commercials, movies, and television shows put the spotlight on happy family gatherings and making wonderful memories. For people who live with mental health problems, the pressure to live up to these images feels exhausting.
Even under the best of circumstances, no holiday remains stress-free. Mental health awareness advocates make a point of reminding people not to buy into the idea that every holiday event should be worthy of a Hallmark movie. Expect that things may not go according to plan and people may not always get along with each other.
The Fictional Side of Social Media During the Holidays
One thing that can make coping with mental illness during holidays difficult relates to social media. Sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter fill up with photographs and videos of what seem like harmonious holiday events enjoyed by friends, family, and acquaintances.
Part of good mental health awareness involves keeping in mind that what you see is not always the full story. Many people post a picture of a family gathered around the dinner table smiling for the camera. Some showcase videos of backyard barbecues or neighborhood decorations that make their lives look like a fairy tale.
Remember that many people want to present a false narrative that neglects to detail family fights, trips together that turned tense, and negative moods that overtook them. If you are feeling depressed or anxious, you are not alone. Despite social media posts full of smiling faces, the holidays can be difficult and challenging for anyone.
Planning How to Spend Your Time During the Holidays
A few basic tips can help you keep your mental health awareness front and center while you move through each holiday. The first tip involves planning your time wisely. When you receive invitations for holiday events, remember you do not have to commit to them immediately.
Ask yourself which events sound like fun and which ones would you attend merely out of a feeling of obligation. Choose the get-togethers that feel like a good fit and don’t overschedule yourself. If people try to pressure you to do more than feels right for you, let them know you are committing to what works for you.
Make Your Mental Illness During Holidays a Priority
Holidays often leave people feeling rushed. Make sure you set aside enough time for proper rest, including sleeping at night and a daytime nap when needed. Becoming exhausted often exacerbates symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Even within a specific event, plan an amount of time to devote to it that doesn’t tire you out. If a holiday event normally lasts for hours, estimate a reasonable amount of time you can give to it without taxing your mental health. Giving yourself permission to arrive late to a holiday party or leave a family meal early can help you relax more during the event.
Most holidays revolve around food to some extent. While indulging in Christmas goodies or heavy, high-calorie party foods may taste great, make sure to eat a healthy balance. Poor nutritional choices can compound the symptoms of mental health problems.
If you are in recovery from alcohol addiction, keep your sobriety in focus. Avoid holiday events that put the spotlight on drinking. When attending events that do serve alcohol, be firm in your commitment to stick to drinks like juice, soda, and coffee.
Plan Relaxing Breaks As Needed
Part of tending to your mental health awareness means planning for breaks you need. When holiday pressure piles on, it can be helpful to have things scheduled like massage appointments or a yoga class. Knowing you have something that promotes a sense of calm and gives you a break can help you get through the tension of holidays.
You can also take mini-breaks to assist with getting rid of stress during the holidays. Some ways to give yourself a bit of time to rejuvenate yourself include:
- Carry a playlist of uplifting music on your phone. Duck out of a room or event long enough to zone out and listen to a few songs.
- Bookmark a website with positive self-affirmations. When you feel stress kicking in, head to a private spot and read through the list.
- Plan for short break times during which you watch an episode of your favorite TV show. Whether in your own home or just grabbing half an hour in your car to stream a show, those breaks can create calm during stressful holiday times.
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