Navigating the holidays with mental illness can be challenging, but with some planning and self-care, it is possible to have a positive experience. In our last Benched blog, we talked about maintaining sobriety. Today we are going to take more of a mental health approach. Struggles with mental health can be helped by knowing what behaviors to avoid. Knowing what behaviors are connected to your mental health and knowing these behaviors are not in your best interest; not healthy for you. Make sure to prioritize your mental health during the holidays. Set aside time each day for self-care activities, such as exercise, meditation, or engaging in hobbies that bring you joy. Stick to your regular self-care routine as much as possible.
Recognize that the holiday season doesn't have to be perfect, and it's okay to say no to activities or events that may add stress or overwhelm you. Set realistic expectations for yourself and remember that it's okay to take breaks and prioritize your mental well-being. Create a schedule or plan for the holidays that includes downtime and activities that you enjoy. Having a plan can help you feel more in control and reduce anxiety. Make sure to include activities that help you relax and recharge. Communicate your needs and boundaries to your loved ones. Let them know what you're comfortable with and what you might need in terms of support or accommodations. It's important to advocate for yourself and not push yourself beyond your limits. Be aware of when it's time for you to reach out for support; you're not alone! Don't hesitate to reach out to your support system, whether it's your therapist, friends, or family members. Sharing how you're feeling with trusted individuals can lessen the burden and provide emotional support.
Practice stress management techniques such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, or engaging in activities that promote relaxation. Find healthy coping mechanisms that work for you, such as journaling, listening to music, or taking walks in nature.
Limit alcohol and substance use. We know that ideally, we will not pick up or drink. But it can be helpful for remember that one drink doesn't equal two; you can decide to stop. Be mindful of the impact of alcohol and substances on your mental health. While it may be tempting to engage in excessive drinking or substance use during social gatherings, they can exacerbate symptoms of mental illness. Stick to moderation or avoid them altogether if they negatively affect your well-being.
Cultivate gratitude by focusing on the positive aspects of this time of year - for you. Keep a gratitude journal, reflect on things you are thankful for, and try to find joy in small moments. My personal favorite graditude at this time of year is the cold weather - i love it! When my mom and my ex are stressing me out, the kids are fighting and I burned the only dish I was responsible for, I'll take a moment outside in the bitter cold. Letting the tip of my nose freeze or the pre-pain of the cold one my fingertips and toes...reminds me I'm alive and I've worked too fucking hard for where I am now to let a four letter holiday to take me down! This can help shift your perspective and promote overall well-being.
Remember, it's okay to prioritize your mental health and take care of yourself during the holidays. By implementing these strategies, you can navigate the holiday season with more ease and enhance your overall well-being.