The holidays can be an extremely stressful time of year.
From the financial pressure to the pressure of hosting the perfect holiday dinner, the holiday season is full of added strain. Not to mention, the heightened stress of year-end work deadlines and midterm / final exams for students. Then, on top of it all, many people live with complicated familial relationships. Some people are experiencing their first holiday without a loved one. Others are living in an emotionally, mentally, physically, or sexually abusive household. Then, there are those who have to hide their authentic self from family members in fear of being exiled. Additionally, the individuals living with an eating disorder feeling extremely uncomfortable at the dinner table in front of family members who make insensitive comments about their weight, body, or eating habits. Furthermore, the individuals whose family members ask inappropriate questions then gaslight and / or invalidate them. Plus, the countless other situations that create heightened anxiety levels.
The holidays are stressful for anyone, whether or not you are living with a diagnosed mental health condition. We are all vulnerable to a decline in mental health during the season. So, what can we do about it?
Allow yourself space and time to express your emotions.
Do not be afraid to feel what you are feeling. Yes, you may have so much to be grateful for. Sure, you are perceived to have it all together. And, yes, the holidays can be about family, joy, and love. None of that means that your feelings are not valid. What you feel and what you think matters. You do not have to suppress your emotions. Suppressing your emotions will only lead to release in unintentional ways, often with anger and irritability.
A few ways to express your emotions are:
- Speak with a loved one or mental health professional for support.
- Journal what you are feeling and connecting it to events / situations. Where does it stem from?
- Meditate on a thought or feeling.
- Exercise to release stress or anger.
- Allow yourself to cry or scream it out. Sometimes, we all need a good cry.
Are there going to be family members in attendance who make you uncomfortable? Are there certain triggers or situations that arise year after year that negatively impact you? Is there a meal on the table that you will eat? What coping mechanisms are easy for you to utilize when in a place full of people? Plan ahead for what you can do to get through.
- Do you need to bring a meal, side, or dessert for yourself?
- Do you have an assertive response planned to the insensitive comments or inappropriate questions?
- Have you made a list of different coping mechanisms you can use?
- Do you have a list of reasons you can use to excuse yourself for a few minutes to breathe or utilize a coping mechanism?
- Who / what is your support system?
A few resources available.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Crisis Text Line: 741-741
- Trevor Project: 1-866-7386
Sending you love and strength this holiday season. xx