Mental Health mindfulness during the holidays
Ahhh the holidays. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or none of the above. It's hard to deny that there's something in the air this time of year. Maybe it's tradition in your family, maybe its the commercialism that gets to you, or maybe you're one of those people who just LOVES Christmas!! It can be a wonderful time of year for many people...but for some people, it can be exhausting and a mental drain.
Now, mind you, the point of this week's blog isn't to make you feel bad for being happy during the holidays. The last thing I want is for this to come off as some sort of guilt trip, it's not. It's more of a mindfulness thing, and I think we can all be a little more mindful. Open your eyes and be aware of those around you and their life situations.
Not EVERYONE celebrates something this time of year. To many people, December 25th is just another day on the calendar.
Not EVERYONE finds an extreme amount of JOY in the holiday season. Again, this doesn't mean YOU can't enjoy the holidays, or even find joy in them.
I came across this graphic on Instagram and it made me reflect, so I thought I would share and expound:
Mental illness doesn't take a break, it doesn't care if it's your birthday, Christmas, or if you just got a job promotion. Mental illness is ALWAYS on for those who suffer, and in some cases - the holidays can exacerbate those feelings of depression, anxiety, or any other myriad of mental illnesses during this time of year. Telling your friend who is depressed that they should be happy "because it's the holidays" is just ridiculous. It's not like a switch you can flip on or off. Sometimes that switch comes on and you can't make it stop because "A Christmas Story" is on...mental illness never takes a break. Don't hold it against someone you know who deals with a mental illness.
Just because it's the holidays, doesn't mean people can't feel lonely or isolated. Some people live far away from their families, or can't afford to travel and see their families during the holidays. Maybe reach out to this friend and invite them over to your place? Have them join in on the traditions you share with your family? We have a friend who has lost her mother, sisters, brothers, and is the only one left in her family. She's in her 70's. We make a point to reach out to her all the time, especially during the holidays and make sure she knows someone is there for her, she is not alone.
Caregivers! You don't think about the man or woman who works in a nursing home or hospital during the holidays. Imaging not being able to be with your family, and instead caring for someone who is at the end of their life, or horribly ill. These people have to put on a happy face and be strong for the ones who they are caring for, and therefore may have an extra hard time during the holidays.
While many of us will be invited to parties, given gifts, are busy buying gifts for friends and loved ones, or maybe we're throwing parties of our own; Don't take those moments and blessings for granted. Remember, there are people who can barely afford to keep their lights on, so there are no decorations, no presents, no holiday feasts, no over the top booze filled celebrations. If you are in a position to help those who are less fortunate out, and can make it happen without crippling yourself financially, don't think twice about helping them out.
Those who are grieving a loss. Death is devastating any day of the year, but when it happens around the holidays - it can be even worse. I know a woman who lost her son to suicide during the holidays, and every year around this time is dreadful. Literally everything reminds her of her son, from the store decorations, to house decorations, to songs on the radio, and movies on TV. You may know someone who lost a loved one during the holidays - and if you do, my advice: Reach out and ask them something about their loved one. "What did your loved one love MOST about the holidays?" or even better - just reach out and let them know that you're there for them. Simple enough, right?
Finally - there's nothing worse than going through a mental illness struggle, and being with people who just don't understand and refuse to support you. Some people just don't understand mental illness, and will insist that they "get over it" or "are just going through a phase." These people can be comforted by your support, even a simple note, email, text message or phone call. If YOU are the one who supports them, they won't feel so marooned spending time with people who don't support them.
Hope I didn't get too preachy, or lay on too much guilt, but I thought it needed to be expanded on, and would be a good food for thought around this time of year. I can be guilty of it too, sometimes we get so caught up in our own lives, that we forget to be mindful of those around us and can end up making someone feel worse, or more lonely then they already feel, when all we had to do was be mindful of others to save that from ever happening.
I hope you have a meaningful holiday, whatever you celebrate, wherever you celebrate, and whomever you celebrate with...enjoy the blessings you have in your life and be thankful for them.