Prioritizing Your Mental Health During the Holidays

Christmas and other holidays are upon us. However, with all the holiday cheer and purchasing of presents, there also comes, for many people, a sense of dread. Some people have families of origin that are toxic, and others have no one at all.

 

This article focuses on prioritizing your mental well-being during the holidays, including New Year’s.

 

What is Mental Wellness

 

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental wellness as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to his or her community.”

 

Emotional wellness reflects your ability to deal with and understand your feelings. It involves focusing on your thoughts and feelings plus monitoring any reactions you have that define your identity and barriers to what may make you emotionally unwell.

 

Mental wellness allows you to:

 

  • Recognize your abilities.
  • Work productively
  • Cope with daily stress
  • Feel and act in ways that have a positive impact on you.

 

Some of the benefits of being mentally well are:

 

  • Emotional well-being
  • Social well-being
  • Psychological well-being
  • Enhanced self-acceptance
  • Growth
  • Positive relationships
  • Purpose
  • Self-sufficiency

 

Mental wellness is something that most people struggle to obtain, and that can be pulled from anyone at any time. All it takes is a trauma, such as the death of someone close, to change your mental wellness forever.

 

What is Mental Illness

 

 

Also called mental health disorders, mental illness is many mental health conditions that can affect your thinking, behavior, and mood. Some examples of mental illness are depression, schizophrenia, substance use disorders, and eating disorders.

 

Mental illness is a common condition that affects millions of people every year.

 

The following statistics are sobering.

 

  • One in five (19%) of adults living in the United States experience mental illness.
  • One in twenty-four (4.1%) people have a severe mental illness.
  • One in twelve (8.5%) people have a diagnosable substance use disorder.

 

Although most people experience mental health, all people have concerns for their mental well-being from time to time. Concerns become mental illness when symptoms cause a lot of stress and affect how you function.

 

Mental illness makes people miserable and causes problems in daily life.

 

The good news is that most mental illnesses are treatable. With medications and the appropriate therapy, most people will recover from their disorder or at least experience their symptoms in remission.

 

The Importance of Self-Care During the Holidays

 

 

While Christmas is a joyful time of year, it comes with enormous stress on those who celebrate it or any of the December holidays. It is critical to remember to take good care of your physical and emotional needs while being bombarded with Christmas cheer.

 

Excellent self-care will aid you in circumnavigating the holiday blues because it strengthens your ability to resist the negative connotations that the holiday can bring.

 

Below are a few methods of self-care you can use to enjoy the holidays better.

 

Recognize what is essential to you. Take time to refresh yourself on your values and ensure you understand that your Christmas will never look like someone else’s, so don’t feel it is necessary to compete with others. Your values and boundaries may tell you that you should avoid your family of origin. If so, it would be incongruent for you to compare yourself to someone who enjoys theirs. Make Christmas and the other holidays your own, not someone else’s.

 

Create and stick to healthy boundaries. During the holidays, setting healthy boundaries that honor yourself is vital. Make what you will and will not tolerate known to people you spend time with during this time of year and respond if they cross them. Remember, you always, always have the option to leave.

 

Stay focused on the present. Although many people have good memories of past holidays, survivors have a more challenging time enjoying themselves. Unfortunately, memories of the past often carry a negative connotation, carrying with them visions of past abuse. It is critical to find ways to keep yourself from flashing back to the years when you were hurt, such as learning and using grounding techniques to bring you back to the here and now quickly.

 

Be sure to make time for yourself. Don’t allow yourself to fill up your calendar with social events because you need time to practice self-care. Alone time is critical to recharging your batteries when the world goes mad during the holiday season. Find time to center yourself by using meditation or mindfulness, two vital tools, while visiting and unwrapping presents.

 

If you take good care of your physical and mental needs throughout the holidays, you will gain the ability to handle life in general. Think of Christmas time as a classroom full of triggers. Learn to control yourself when you have a flashback or are otherwise triggered, and you can carry what you learn into the rest of your ordinary life.

 

Protecting Your Mental Health During the Holidays

 

 

Because the holidays are so stressful, it is critical to protect your mental health from deteriorating during them. It isn’t only the blues that affect people during the season of supposed cheer; anxiety and stress are predominant, making people miserable during the time of ho-ho-ho-ing.

 

To put the above paragraph into perspective, ValuePenguin surveyed 2000 people and found that 67% of people in the United States expect to feel anxious. Also, 79% of Americans with children younger than eighteen feel stress the most. Women (70%) are likelier to feel anxious and stressed than men (64%).

 

The leading causes of the stress and anxiety people feel are attributed to financial struggles, the loss of a loved one, seasonal depression, and other troubles. These other problems may be:

 

  • Having poor relationships with family
  • Not being around loved ones during the holidays
  • Being around family during the holidays
  • Social media
  • Over-rated expectations of what Christmas should be like

 

Sadly, 61% of U.S. consumers think they’ll experience loneliness or sadness.

 

Methods to Protect Your Mental Health During the Holidays

 

 

The greatest asset anyone has is good mental health. With good mental health, you can do anything you want. The holidays can overwhelm your ability to maintain good mental health and send you into depression or worse.

 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are methods you can employ to help you get and maintain your mental health during the holidays. For one, you can pay close attention to your feelings. Are you overwhelmed? Do you need to go home?

 

Another way to protect your mental health during the holidays is to make a plan ahead of time to go for a walk or do something that makes you happy. Making and following a plan of action will help ensure you can handle the difficult moments with family and friends.

 

Yet another way to safeguard your mental health during the holidays is to help others. You can check in on those who are alone or shut in and volunteer to feed people experiencing homelessness at a shelter. Offering yourself as a volunteer brings excellent satisfaction, and you will feel in control and calmer.

 

Ending Our Time Together

 

I realize that some people feel my suggestions for those who have complicated families of origin are controversial. In this series and elsewhere, I’ve stated that you can have no contact with your family of origin or severely limit your time with them. Some people have written and told me that one can correct their point of view, and poof, they will get along with their families.

 

That suggestion is unrealistic for so many reasons. Some families of origin are unsafe for both physical and mental health. Some families of origin have rejected the survivor anyway, so it is essential for their mental health to stay away from their family.

 

This series aims to address the problems people face during the holiday season. I knew I needed to write this series to help myself get and remain grounded. I, too, suffer a bit during the holiday season, experiencing flashbacks and dealing with my own family of origin.

 

Just remember, you are not alone, especially during the holiday season. I’m with you and understand your struggles, as do the other staff at CPTSD Foundation. We’re here for you if you need us. We’re always open.

 

I hope and pray that all of you have a safe and quiet holiday and enjoy yourselves in making new traditions with your family of choice.

 

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” – Calvin Coolidge.

 

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.” – Eric Severeid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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