How to cope with a mental Illness during the holidays

Photo courtesy The Flinn Foundation

Managing a mental illness is much like fighting an internal war with yourself. You have your good days and your not so good days, but during the holidays it may be a little bit harder to bask in the cheer. Especially during a global pandemic.

As COVID-19 cases rise again in the United States, a lot of states will begin to go back on lockdown. It is 10 times more important for those with illnesses to tend to themselves and gather creative ways to bring joy during  “the most wonderful time of the year.’’

Strive to be honest with yourself and how you feel

It’s easy to get so caught up in pleasing other people and faking happiness for the sake of the holiday, but honor yourself. Take inventory on how you feel when you are up or down. It’s important to be cognizant of your emotions so that you can think of ways to change it or keep the momentum going. It’s also important to not place other people’s wants before your own.

Surround yourself with family and friends

The holidays are meant to be spent with those who you love and those who love you. Spend as much time as you can decorating, singing, playing games and simply enjoying the company of those around you. When was the last time you played Twister? Or even played a vicious game of Uno? Whatever you choose, make sure it’s interactive and without too much competition.

Choose when and how you will share and experience holiday cheer

Coinciding with being honest with your feelings, if you don’t want to be gung-ho and cheerful, don’t. Yes, it is expected to be joyful during the holidays, but if that’s not your style it’s OK. Christmas is so much more than trees, presents, caroling and food — well, food isn’t so bad.

 Find a plan B to therapy

A lot of therapists and psychiatrists have families and need to take breaks during the holidays. Therapy may or may not be available so that means it’s important to establish a recovery plan or plan of action just in case you hit a low moment. Designate trusted people who you know will talk you through grounding exercises as well as those you know who will put a smile on your face! Find literal happy places to travel to clear your mind. 

Challenge yourself to do or experience something new

Some of life’s moments of joy come from victories along the journey. Take this time away from work or school to simply discover things that you’ve never encountered. Try going for a hike, taking up a second language, tackling a difficult puzzle, listen to an out the box music genre. Try anything that challenges you from your comfort zone so that you can continue to evolve.

For more helpful tips on how to cope during the holidays, check out NAMI:Managing Mental Health During the Holidays.