This time of year with all the holidays and celebrations can be so tough for those of us with mental illness or anyone with any struggles. It can be so busy, filled with family, expectations, pressure, hustle and bustle.
It can heighten anxiety and worsen depression or other symptoms because there is so much going on and it’s easy to notice what you don’t have at this time of year, whether this is money or people who aren’t with you. It can heighten grief and loss, it can increase stress. It’s vital that we take care of ourselves during this time and look after our mental health.
1. Don’t feel pressured to act a certain way
This time of year is full of happy people enjoying themselves, having parties, giving gifts, spending time with family and sometimes we can feel pressured to join it, whether this be to put on a smiling face or to get involved in festivities and to ‘act happy’. Remember that you and your health are the most important thing, don’t feel as though you have to keep up with others or put on a front. Be yourself and loved ones will either understand or just have to deal with it; put yourself first.
2. Explain to people in advance
If you are attending a family event or a party with friends it could be a good idea to talk to the people who will be there in advance and let them know how you might be feeling or what you might need from them if you feel able. This way they will know what to expect or how to act to make you feel more comfortable, and you may feel less anxious attending. This can be daunting and is not for everyone, but if you feel you can be open with those who will be there, even just one person, it may help to ease the situation for you.
3. Ask for what you need from those around you
If you are in a situation that you feel uncomfortable in, if you feel able to you can speak up and ask for what you need from those around you. This can take courage especially if everyone else is having fun, but remember that your mental health is most important and you should not be afraid to prioritise this.
4. Reach out for support if you need it
If you are struggling at this time of year, try not to isolate yourself, as hard as this can be. Try to talk to your support system, whoever you feel comfortable communicating with, whether this is family and friends or someone in your professional support system. Remember there are helplines if you feel you aren’t able to talk to anyone in your life.
5. Don’t feel guilty about practising self-care
It’s so easy to feel guilty for doing what is right for you, especially at a time of year where you feel everyone just wants to have fun and you could be bringing the mood down, but at the end of the day, self-care is vital. You shouldn’t feel you have to fake enjoying yourself to please others; this can be easier said than done but it’s important to remember that you need to do what feels best for you and take care of yourself, be kind to yourself.
6. Don’t feel pressured to give more than you can
There can be so much pressure to give gifts and spend a lot of money on others. Remember that this isn’t as important as it can seem, it’s the thought that counts and although that sounds cheesy, I truly believe that’s the truth. Don’t feel you have to spend more than you can afford to give gifts. You can always handmake something which is full of love and being there for someone, showing you love them, is what is most important.
7. Take breaks when you need them
Remember to take breaks when you need them, even if this is just stepping outside if you’re with family and you need a breather or going to have a lie-down, anything that lets you have a few minutes to feel a bit calmer.
8. Try to enjoy what you can
There are good aspects to this time of year and a lot of us will really enjoy ourselves, even if there are things that we might struggle with. Try to enjoy as much as you can, doing the activities or attending the events that you feel you will enjoy the most, doing the things that will bring you happiness, however small or large these activities may be. You don’t have to do all of the traditional holiday activities if they don’t suit you. If just sitting in your pyjamas watching films and eating your favourite food is what will bring you the most happiness, then do just that!
9. Remember you are not alone
If you don’t have family or friends at this time of year, it can be so easy to feel alone when others are spending time with loved ones. Remember that you are not alone, there are others out there who feel like you. Try to reach out if you can: there are helplines you can call, getting involved in a conversation online can be a great thing through social media or other help groups, attending local events can be great, anything that you feel able to do that could help you connect with others.
Overall remember to have a great holiday and do what is best for you. Whatever holiday you celebrate, remember that this is your holiday too and you deserve to enjoy yourself, you aren’t just there for other people. Your mental health comes first.