11 Ideas for Coping with the Holidays When You Have a Mental Illness
The holidays can be a fun time of year but for those who suffer from a mental illness, they can also be one of the most daunting periods. They can be a time of intense pressure from both your professional and your private life, with constant invitations to events and family get-togethers.
There are steps that you can take to help yourself cope with this time of year though, so let’s take a look at 11 effective ways of helping you cope with your mental illness during the holiday season.
1. Stay away from alcohol
It’s the holidays and it’s easy to feel the need to have a few drinks and let your hair down. While this may be incredibly tempting, it will also be very detrimental.
Not only can alcohol interfere with some medication but it is also a depressant and it can be the trigger that causes you to get stuck into a cycle and become dependant on it, especially during the holiday season.
Just because you shouldn’t have alcohol doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun though. There are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages available that taste just as good, if not better than the real thing.
2. Look ahead, not backward
The end of the year and the holidays can be seen as a time of reflection on the previous twelve months, and while there is certainly nothing wrong with taking a look back on the last year, it is important to remember not to dwell on the past.
The end of the year also brings about a whole host of new opportunities for the coming twelve months and it is this that should be on your mind as the current year winds to a close.
3. Stick to your therapy
The holiday season can be a busy time of the year and it can be easy to let good habits slip. One of the first things a lot of people will cancel if they are stretched for time is their therapy sessions but it is vital that you don’t do this.
With the holiday seasons being such a festive period, it can be very easy to feel isolated and alone if you are not in the right frame of mind so having someone to talk to is absolutely essential.
4. Keep to routines
A healthy body will always help you keep a healthy mind but when the cold months set in and the expenses start to pile up, it can be easy to justify not exercising or getting outside as much.
Keeping your body moving is essential to keeping yourself on the right track, so try not to let your exercise routines slip away in the holiday period.
5. Make yourself your top priority
With everything going on during the festive period, it is easy to focus all your attention on making everybody around you feel good. While this is certainly not a bad thing, it is important to make sure that you don’t neglect yourself at the same time.
If you are a parent or a grandparent, this can be especially easy to do but it is important for your well-being that you don’t burn yourself out during this period. You can only take care of others if you take care of yourself first.
6. Be honest with friends and family
The holiday period is all about looking after and spending time with your friends and family but for people with a mental illness, this may prove to be quite taxing. If there are strained relationships or family members who make you feel uncomfortable, this can be especially difficult.
It is important to remember that it is your decision whether or not you want to spend time with individual people. Your friends and family can be a great network but they may not understand your mental illness.
7. Get outdoors
Depending on where you live, the holidays are likely to be a very cold time of year. This allows people to make excuses to stay inside and do very little, and for a person with a mental illness, this is definitely not a good thing.
Getting outside and being at one with nature is essential and you should make plans to get out of the house at least a couple of times a day to help you feel more positive.
8. Don’t feel guilty
This one is much easier said than done but it is important to remember not to feel guilty if you are not feeling up to doing some of the organized activities during the holiday period.
The network of people around you needs to understand that some things can be difficult for you and you should try to be as clear as possible when communicating that to them. There is absolutely no need to feel guilty over something you have no control over.
9. Look after your wallet
The holidays can be an expensive time of year, and for many people, finances can be a serious source of mental health issues. If you struggle with anxiety as a result of finances, make sure you don’t feel the need to overindulge at Christmas time and thus put yourself in a difficult position. This can be very easy to do, especially if you have children.
10. Have a time-out prepared
Sometimes, things can get too overwhelming during the holiday period and you may feel as though you need to just take a few moments out to regain your thoughts.
Make sure you have an effective time-out strategy which means you can remove yourself from a difficult situation if and when it is necessary. Knowing that you are not trapped in a stressful situation can go a long way to helping you feel more secure. For instance, have a warm coat handy so that you can slip out into the garden for a breath of fresh air if the need arises.
11. Don’t feel pressured to do things that make you feel uncomfortable
There are a lot of activities going on during the holiday season and some of them may not be suited to a person with a mental illness. Knowing that it is okay to not take part in certain activities is important and it is also important that you don’t allow those around you to make you feel pressured into doing something that may make you feel bad.