Christmas, although a cheerful time, can be especially stressful for those struggling with mental illness. It’s a time where there are numerous social expectations, alcohol (depressant) is easily accessible and may be part of family traditions, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is at a high as the world feels terribly cold and dark.
Loneliness during the Christmas season is also common among people who suffer from mental illness. I know for me, winter is the time where I isolate myself most. I find winter and Christmas to be a lonely time despite the family gatherings.
Not to mention the stress of organizing a schedule of multiple family dinners, buying gifts for loved ones and still finding time to practice self-care and make sure mental health is being taken care of.
Here are some ways to help make the Christmas season more manageable for those who suffer from mental illness:
- Manage Expectations: For those who struggle with mental illness, getting out of bed may be a struggle in itself, let alone going to multiple Christmas events and dinners. It’s important to understand if someone can’t attend an event or has to cancel. Understand that we are trying our best.
- Do a secret Santa or a homemade gift exchange: Money is stressful for everyone. But, as someone who struggles with anxiety, I find money can put me straight into a downward spiral. Limiting gift expectations can ease the anxiety associated with gift giving. Side Note: Gifts are nice, but when did Christmas become more about material items than helping those who are truly in need?
- Ask what they need: Instead of asking what they want for Christmas and insisting on getting them a material gift, ask what they need? Money for counselling? A massage gift card? Grocery money? These gifts may be especially appreciated and help in reducing anxiety surrounding the expensive months leading up to Christmas.
- Try throwing a sober Christmas party if someone close to you has struggled or currently struggles with addiction. This act of understanding will likely warm their heart and ease their anxiety about temptation.
- Check in: If you haven’t heard from a loved one who may be struggling, reach out. Or get creative- send them a letter. Small acts of kindness sure do help me get out of depressive states.
- Support their dietary restrictions: A lot of people who struggle with mental illness have to be especially mindful of their diet. Certain foods trigger depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. Be mindful of this and if you’re hosting a dinner, have healthy options available and don’t pressure people to indulge if they don’t seem comfortable.
I hope everyone is managing as the days seem darker and colder. Comment ways you survive the Christmas season!