Today I was re-reading one of my most read posts – 6 Things To Remember If You’re Single This Christmas. To date it is one of my most read posts. Several of you have reached out throughout the years and let me know how it touched you and made you feel less alone. I was 28, single and on (what felt like) a never-ending journey to find my person. Fast forward 3 years – I met and now live with that person (plus a dream doggo). And oh, is it ever good. While I’m not single this Christmas – I am most definitely affected by mental health. I’ve shared my journey with anxiety and now opening up about it’s sibling – depression. Struggling with mental health can be a challenge year round, but it tends to flare up around the holidays. So, this post is for you – sweet girl. The one battling anxiety, depression or any other mental illness. Here are six things to remember if you struggle with mental health this Christmas.
Schedule Time For Yourself
The holidays seem like a never-ending blur of overwhelming amounts of food, presents, family and stress. Between finding that perfect gift for everyone on your list to co-ordinating family celebrations with multiple families to wondering if you’ll have any money left at all in the New Year – it can be exhausting. For this reason, treat yourself to some “me time” during the holidays. Whether it’s hours or days – give yourself time to turn off the Christmas cheer, to rest and re-charge. Last weekend I spent a day at an outdoor spa with my boyfriend and spent the day relaxing and recharging. No phones, no outside communication. Just us and pools and food and relaxation. Take time for yourself and let your mind quiet before, during and after the holidays.
Treat Your Mental Illness Like An Illness
We tend to forget days of mental fog, extreme fatigue and an uncontrollable racing mind are all symptoms of anxiety and depression. If your nose was stuffed up and you were coughing uncontrollably – you would call in sick from work. You would tell the hostess at the Christmas party you cannot attend due to a head cold. And they would think nothing of it. This year, treat mental health the exact same way. If you are having trouble mentally getting out of bed – call in sick. Tell the hostess of the Christmas party you won’t be able tp attend. If you don’t feel comfortable disclosing your mental state – just say you’re sick and leave it at that.
Boundaries are powerful. Boundaries are essential for everyone – especially those struggling with mental health. You know your own mind and body. If you can’t do it – don’t. If someone asks you to attend something you don’t have the mental capacity for – politely decline. Reschedule in the New Year. Keep your holidays as relaxing as they need to be. If that means a maximum of 2 Christmas gatherings, so be it. If it means zero Christmas gatherings and a night in with your hubby, so be it. Saying “NO” is a powerful thing. Use it to protect your mind and your peace.
Take Time Outs
If you’re at a holiday party or event and feel overwhelmed or anxious – take a time out. Politely excuse yourself and find the dog in the house (my tactic), go to the washroom to freshen up, go outside for some fresh air. Take as much time as you need. If anyone asks where you were, tell them you were taking time for yourself. Change the subject. Karen doesn’t need any more information.
Bring An Emergency Feel Better Kit
If you’re going into a social setting during the holidays, do yourself a favor and bring an emergency feel good kit. WTF is that? It’s all the things that soothe your mind and body in cases of a flareup. Whatever works for you – lavender essential oils, a journal, game on your phone, sachets of peppermint tea, a heating pad. Bring it with you and use accordingly.
Give Yourself Grace
As all of us mental health warriors know – all we’re searching for is a little grace. From our friends, from our families, from our co-workers, from ourselves. If you don’t have time to cook a holiday dish – that is okay. If you need to leave early from a family gathering – that is okay. If you can’t find that perfect gift for your mother in law – that is okay. Get her a candle and cozy socks and call it a day. Give yourself the gift of grace and know you’ll do your best – whatever that may be. Plus, there is always next year!
If you’re struggling with mental health during the holidays – know you’re not alone. You never know what is going on in someones life. Just because someone shows up all cheery and sparkly to a Christmas dinner doesn’t mean they didn’t have an anxiety attack hours before. Let’s be in this together. If you’re feeling isolated I encourage you to reach out to a friend, family member, therapist. You don’t have to go through this alone. I’ll be thinking of all you mental health warriors and sending you love!