MAINTAINING MENTAL HEALTH DURING THE HOLIDAYS


For some of us, the holidays aren’t always so jolly. The good news is, we’re not alone.


By Josephine Coiscou


As you start to reflect on this past year and compare it to previous years, maybe you’re not where you hoped you’d be by now.


And that’s completely okay because one thing I’ve learned is that where you are in life is not permanent and neither is how you are feeling.


This time of year can be a trigger for a lot of people, myself included. If I’m being honest, I sometimes wish we could skip the holidays altogether. This time last year was really tough for me. Have you ever felt like you don’t know what’s going on with you or you just feel plain lost? That’s how I felt. I remember going to visit my grandmother and having to fight back tears and I cried myself to sleep that night.


A lot of us have our depression, anxiety, anger, etc at its peak during this time of year, whether it’s from past trauma or current. Someone may have lost someone close to them like a relative(s) or friend(s). Maybe someone lost their job, lost a pet, or have just been feeling overwhelmed and feel like everything is constantly crumbling.


It happens to the best of us. Whether you’re a person who struggles with mental health every day or you’re the happiest person every day, we all have our off days. After all, we’re just human. If this holiday season is less than cheerful for you, I want you to know you are not alone and you shouldn’t feel pressured to do anything you’re not up for this holiday season.


Here are some tips for doing the holidays on your terms, however you feel.


PROTECT YOUR ENERGY

Take some time to yourself, but not too much time.


If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it's okay to not go to any holiday parties if you think it will cause you more stress. Instead, invite a close friend over or a small group of friends that you trust to talk to or simply call them if you’re up for it. Take a moment to cry if needed, let it out. Take a few deep breaths and find your center. Celebrations should be fun and joyful, not draining and dreadful.


And hey, if you find that you want retail therapy but you don’t feel like bumping into any familiar faces in public and have those awkward how-have-you-been conversations just so that person can gloat about the new promotion, new house or new car and make you start comparing yourself to others, this is what online shopping and express delivery was made for. Just kidding, or am I?


There’s no law that says you absolutely HAVE to be in the holiday spirit. If you live alone or even if you have children that are still babies and don’t know what holidays are yet, skip it. Don’t let the overjoyed holiday spirit of other people pressure you into the holiday madness. Give yourself a break and just be thankful for the life you have on what some people consider just another day.

Instead of spending money on a tree and presents, get yourself a good dinner and a good bottle of wine and relax.


TAKE IT DOWN A NOTCH

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about your holiday to-do list, find ways to eliminate unnecessary tasks. Look up DIY hacks for cooking, baking and decorating. If you still find yourself doing all the cooking, baking, decorating and gift wrapping every year, take this year to scale back a bit. It’s okay to not be over the top.


The holidays and the end of the year are all about perspective. Take this time to reflect on your life and where it is currently and compare it to where it was last year and the previous year to see how far you’ve come along. Make a list of where you want to be next year and think of ways to make those necessary changes and what steps you need to take to get there.


If you find yourself feeling emotionally or spiritually lost, remember, you are not alone. Grab a notebook and maybe a cup of tea or wine and write down everything you are feeling. This process helps to release your mental tension and helps you to process your thoughts more clearly. Then think about what you DO want and believe, follow those thoughts with how they make you feel, and indulge yourself if you find any kind of peace in those thoughts.


FIND YOUR CENTER

Another good thing to do during this time is to find new hobbies you’re interested in but never had time to try. Offices are usually slow and people are busy with the holidays, giving you more free time. Pick up a new book, write, paint, exercise, listen to a podcast. Find something to mentally free yourself and get lost in. Finding a new hobby and inspire you to find a new passion in life.

Set yourself free. Explore. Don’t be afraid to cut out any toxicity in your life and let go of whatever and whoever isn’t making you happy. Consider it your New Year’s resolution: to start fresh.


I once read a quote that said, “You’re always one decision away from a completely different life.” Just to clarify this doesn’t mean deciding to get a medium or large fries at McDonald’s or whether you decide to change your shoes last minute. Though, that can be a tough call.


YOU ARE NOT ALONE

Last night, I didn’t have any Saturday night plans so I spent the evening in bed watching movies and felt more lost until I fell asleep. I didn’t like that feeling at all, in fact, I woke up immediately trying to take control of it by mentally reminding myself I’m not sad, I’m just lost.

I decided the best thing for me to do is what I know. I do know I love to write, which is why I’m sharing this with you all. I decided to focus on landing my dream job and the rest will follow. I always try to find my peace in the things I like to do, like writing, listening to music or podcasts. This gives me energy and in turn, helps me forget that I feel lost.


This process doesn’t happen overnight so take it one day at a time. Just remember, where you are now and this is not the end. It’s like they say, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.


Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) provides information on prevention, treatment, and symptoms of anxiety, depression and related conditions (240-485-1001) If you or someone you know needs additional, reach out to these resources for help.


Josephine Coiscou is a blogger writing about happiness and mental health while enjoying the sunlight, living life and finding beauty in nature. Follow her at @theultimatekween and @SimplytheEssense and follow her personal blog Sophisticatedly Vulgar