Making Mental Health a Priority During the Holidays
We're only a few days away from one of my absolute favorite times of the year, Christmas! The cookies, the gifts, the lights and decorations, the movies and songs, families and friends all gathered together to celebrate the season of peace and love. Ever since I was a young girl, I can remember loving every bit of the season; I'd decorate my bedroom in paper snowflakes and Christmas lights and watched every Christmas movie imaginable at least 5 times each. It just makes me happy!
I've always struggled with depression growing up and in the last 3-4 years anxiety has been added to the bill. It makes things, things that used to be simple, complicated messes. It's weird and embarrassing and not something I like about myself. Up until last year, it has never leaked into the Christmas season. In fact, that might be another reason why I love the holiday so much. My depression and anxiety dissipate, as if they were never really there. But then as January unfolds and it gets colder and darker, so does my heart.
Last Christmas season I'd been tired and moody and sad about nearly everything. I was trying to ignore it and hide it from people but its rearing it's ugly head. This year I decided to focus on what really matters and make joy a priority and honestly, its been hard but I'm doing a lot better than I was last year.
|photo by Emily Weaver|
Christmas is 3 days away, and I know that it will hold equal parts joy and sadness, especially with having lost a family member and traditions being a little different and all the travel we have in store. I've talked with some friends and realized that anxiety and seasonal depression are a lot more common than I realized.
So what can I do? What can you do if you're experiencing sadness, loneliness, or low self esteem this holiday season? Here's what I've been doing that has helped in small amounts, and I hope it can encourage you as well!
1. Don't seclude yourself. As much as you may want to be alone, let yourself spend time with friends and family. Whether that is in person at a holiday party or dinner, via Skype, or for a few hours meeting up for lunch... don't be alone during the holidays because that can make it all the more difficult.
2. Count your blessings. I know this seems redundant and cliche, but it truly can help. Deciding not to complain every single day will totally lighten your spirits. Also, keep your complaints off of Facebook and Twitter. It will not only remind you of your losses and the things you don't have but it will make other people have a skewed view of you. Think about it, if you only ever complain online do you think people are going to want to step out of their way to be around you?
3. Take care of your physical body. Bubble baths, eating your fruits and veggies, taking vitamins, drinking lots of water, and getting sleep are crucial to having a good attitude and outlook on your day. If you're taking care of yourself, you'll feel taken care of. Duh.
4. Make your mental health a priority. Take a nap if you need to. Journal. Do a digital detox. Make it a priority to distance yourself from overwhelm, stress, and negativity. Care for yourself. If you know a certain person or situation will cause you stress and overwhelm, do your best to avoid it at least for the holiday season.
5. Give. My love language is gifts, whether giving or receiving. Mostly giving though, because I love picking out the perfect present for someone and then watching them open it. It doesn't matter if its your love language or not, I can guarantee that you'll feel a little bit of light and joy when you give to others. Giving presents at Christmas, donating to charities, giving your time to organizations and people who need your help- these are important this time of year.
6. Therapy/Counseling. I know that it's not for everyone, but sometimes finding a therapist can really help. Talking to someone about how you're feeling, getting positive and healthy advice, investing in a life coach...these are all great options to look into!
|photo by Emily Weaver|
I know that these tips won't necessarily take away your feelings of sadness, loneliness, or anxiety completely, but they can help keep your spirits up. They can keep your focus on other people and other things instead of the thoughts that keep that sadness around. You're not alone this holiday season! You are loved and valued and important. You have worth. Christ came as a baby, He was born in the lowest of places to save you from this dark, sad world. He gave up His heavenly kingdom and glorious position for a time to save us, to show us grace and love.
You have a purpose this holiday season. Focus on that true joy. Focus on the greatest gift you've ever been given. Tomorrow is a new day. When you struggle with depression or anxiety, it's important to take care of yourself. Don't wait until tomorrow to focus on healing.