Mental Health and the Holidays
As the festive season is upon us once again, we may be feeling the pressure to celebrate, pose for pictures and just ‘be happy’. I don’t mean to be a Grinch, but it is hard for many during this time, especially if we are facing mental health challenges.
The festive season is supposed to be about sharing the joy we feel about the festivals with friends and family. And yet, what if we are unable to get ourselves to feel the joy at all? During Diwali (festival of lights) last year, I was going through an episode of acute depression. I felt the emptiest I remember feeling in a long time. And yet, well-meaning friends and family wanted me to be part of the festival celebrations. They genuinely felt that it would change my mood. However, no matter how hard I tried, I could not get myself to enjoy as much. It felt like an obligation. It even made my symptoms worse after wards.
Many people with an on-going mental health challenge face this during this season. What is even more complicated is, concerns like depression and anxiety, have a way of keeping us away from everyone and hance feel isolated. And this can increase the feelings of helplessness and frustration even more. Especially when you know others around you are having fun, while you are unable to feel the spirit.
Here are some tips that helped me and can help others facing any mental health challenges to get through the holidays.
1. Be kind to yourself
When we are going through a difficult period emotionally, it is easy for us to feel like we are not doing enough to get out of this feeling. You may judge yourself for having these mental health concerns too.
It is important to remember in this time especially, to be kind to yourself. You can begin by not comparing yourself to others during the holidays. Not everybody’s holiday or festive season has to look or feel the same. Remember, the goal is to feel better than what you are feeling, which may not mean ‘happy’.
2. Honor your body’s limits
It is important to honor our thoughts and feelings about ourselves and how we feel about this time of the year. Its absolutely ok to feel down and out. One must understand that sometimes our illness can cause us to feel exhausted and dis interested to participate in any activities. Socializing or being with closed ones may help sometimes, but if you feel tired, take a break. Honoring your own body’s limits and taking ample rest if needed can go a long way.
3. Stay connected
It can be easy for you to feel that nobody understands you and therefore you may not want to be around people. However, being isolated can increase the feelings of loneliness during this time. Try to remember that even if others don’t completely understand how you feel, they may be trying their best to understand you. You can speak to a trusted person and educate them about how you would like to feel supported at this time.
4. Indulge in self-care
Although you may not feel like taking care of yourself, indulging in small acts of self-care can help enhance your mood and decrease ruminating in negative thoughts. Simple things like a visit to the spa or getting a new hairstyle can help. Even getting some stretches or some form of movement that you previously liked can help you feel better. If it feels hard to do it alone, you can ask a friend to tag along.
5. Keep a journal
Writing about your thoughts and feelings can not only help you vent out but also give you a different perspective on things. Developing self-awareness during this time can be really helpful to keep you going. Throughout my episode of depression which lasted for around 3 months, journaling helped me to cope with the overwhelming expectations of having high spirits.
To conclude, mental health challenges can be a time of struggle and discomfort for most people. And when we feel these symptoms during the holidays, it seems even more overwhelming. Remember to show some kindness and compassion towards yourself. You can either oblige to the requests of your loved ones to be a part of the festivities, or choose to not be a part of it at all. And guess what, both are ok. You can decide the pace at which you wish for things to go. The idea of the festive season and holidays is to bring some hope and cheer, and you can decide what that means for you.
Here's wishing you the season's greetings and may you have a new year filled with hope and love.