Ready or Not, the Holiday Season Has Arrived
There is an awful lot of pressure to enjoy the holiday season.
You are supposed to look forward to a big Thanksgiving Day meal (and maybe some Black Friday shopping) with your family or friends.
You are supposed to look forward to the family coming together for Christmas (not to mention the obligatory office holiday party and the “Secret Santa” shenanigans).
You are supposed to be happy that your usual radio station has dropped its entire playlist in favor of Christmas music (and ignore the awkward conjoining of secular and sacred music that blares from your speakers).
You are supposed to be ready to party on New Year’s Eve (and maybe watch some football on New Year’s Day).
After all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Didn’t you hear that on the radio just short of a billion times? Must be true then, right?
Well, maybe for some people.
But not necessarily for everyone. In fact, maybe the holiday season is a difficult time for you—especially if you are dealing with a mental illness like depression, anxiety, seasonal affective disorder, or a trauma-based disorder.
You are far from alone.
All I Want for Christmas…Is a Little Less Holiday Hoopla
In 2014, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) conducted a survey among those with diagnosed mental illnesses. The results? Nearly a quarter of the people surveyed (24 percent) reported that the holiday season makes the symptoms of their mental health disorder significantly worse. Another 40 percent reported that the holidays made them feel somewhat worse.
Taken together, that means 64 percent—nearly two-thirds—of individuals with diagnosed mental health disorders report that the holidays make things noticeably worse when it comes to their overall mental well-being.
If you are among them, you know exactly what we are talking about. But you may feel helpless to do anything about it. The holidays come around each year whether you like it or not.
Still, there are some strategies you can employ to make the holiday season a little more merry and bright.
Beat the Holiday Blues by Beating Back Burnout
When we think about burnout, we tend to think about our jobs and all the ways they stress us out. But a case could be made that the holiday season comes with its own flavor (peppermint?) of burnout danger. The holidays come with built-in expectations—in terms of the activities the season brings as well as in terms of the cheery mood everyone is expected to evince.
But when you are dealing with a mental health disorder, all of that has the potential to be overwhelming. So the best present you can give yourself is permission to:
- Say no to some (or even all) invitations to parties and get-togethers.
- At events you do choose to attend, give yourself permission to leave or to opt out of conversations about divisive topics.
- Budget the time (and the money) you can comfortably spend on holiday-related endeavors.
- Accept your feelings as your feelings and refuse to feel guilty about not sharing in the so-called “holiday spirit.”
- Remember that the “perfect holidays” you see on the endless television specials and movies are carefully crafted to avoid the complexities of real life—so you do not have to live up to those images.
Additional Gifts You Can Give Yourself: Gratitude & Grace
A spirit of gratitude can give a boost to your mental health, and so it may be the part of the holiday season you should lean into instead of away from. Remembering everything you have to be grateful for—and perhaps paying some of that gratitude forward—is an excellent way to keep your holiday focus in a fruitful frame of mind.
You should also give yourself the gift of grace. It is all too easy to get down on yourself for not feeling the joy that the world seems to insist you simply must feel at this time of year. Avoiding this trap is an excellent way to make the holiday season more manageable.
Help for the Holiday Season & Beyond
At Peak View Behavioral Health, we know that the holidays can be a challenging time for many people. If you are among them, we can offer expertise, compassion, and a personalized approach to treatment that can improve your overall quality of life—not just during the fall and winter festivities, but throughout the year. The gift of mental wellness truly is the gift that keeps on giving.