Bells ringing, people singing, cookies baking, happiness faking? Wait, what- faking happiness? The holidays are supposed to be the merriest time of the year-aren’t they? Not always and not for everybody. The holidays can be a stressful time for anybody, and surviving the holiday season when you are struggling with depression or another mental illness can be even more difficult. Here are some tips to help you to make your holiday season more merry and bright and do more than just survive the holiday season.
- Be aware of your needs. Maintain your routine as much as possible including getting enough sleep, exercising, eating healthy, etc. Ensure that you have time to relax and spend some time in activities that are meaningful for you. Develop a plan in advance of how you might handle potential problems that might arise during the holiday season such as sadness, feeling alone, feeling overwhelmed. Talk about your plan with a trusted friend, family member, or therapist.
- Stay connected with other people. If you aren’t feeling well, you may be tempted to isolate yourself and not join in on the activities that you do enjoy. Fight that urge and reach out to someone that cares about you and attend some activities that you might be tempted to avoid. Doesn’t need to be a major event or party if that is stressful for you, instead invite a friend over to bake cookies or drive/walk around to look at decorations. Pop popcorn and watch a movie or just talk to someone on the phone. Connecting with at least one other person can decrease your chances of being depressed and possibly help your friend too!
- Decrease stress and learn to say “no”. Choose the holiday events that are enjoyable and have meaning for you and recognize when additional demands on your time become overwhelming. Decide what is extra and which are the activities that you think you “should” do but aren’t actually necessary. Simplify when possible and enjoy the things you do and don’t feel guilty for the things you don’t do.
- Have reasonable expectations. A steady diet of holiday stories and movies filled with love and happiness can be enjoyable but can also add to our expectations of having a “perfect” holiday season. Aim to have a “good enough” holiday and don’t expect that your family will get along perfectly, your children will be overcome with love and kindness for each other, you will find the love of your life, and that you will receive the most meaningful gift ever… Perfection isn’t possible but having a “good enough” holiday certainly is!
- Despite these suggestions, if you start feeling really low or depressed-please, reach out to someone that can help. Call a friend. Schedule a therapy appointment. Call a crisis line. Recognize that you are not the only one feeling that way and reach out to someone that will understand.
Wasatch Mental Health would like to wish everyone a “good enough” holiday season.