Thanksgiving is here (yikes!), which means Christmas and New Years are getting extremely close! This busy time of year can be an energetic and wonderful for some – a time of spiritual renewal through our churches, deeper connection with family and friends, and looking forward to the bright future of a new year. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But what if this time of year is not filled with such warm connections to spirit, others, or self? What if this is a difficult and challenging time of year due to strained finances, struggles with a family members, or just downright feeling all alone? There are many reasons why this time of year, in spite of what TV and various media tell us, is actually quite difficult for some of us. For those struggling with mental illness, and their families, this time of year can be even more difficult.
Many of my colleagues and I have discussed the increase number of patients we see during the holidays who are experiencing depression and/or anxiety. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that, during the holidays, there is at least a 15% increase in the number of individuals who seek mental-health services.
Whether or not there is a mental-health diagnosis, there are things each of us can do to make sure we survive the holidays. Here are some ideas from my colleagues and support staff here at the Bergan Clinic:
- Make sure you get enough sleep.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol.
- Opt for healthier food choices or smaller portions.
- Keep that exercise routine going.
- Schedule some down time – reading a book, taking a walk, meditating, praying.
- No illegal drugs.
- If you are taking medications, take them as directed.
- Take time to remember what this season is really all about.
- Know when to reach out for extra help – from family, friends, or providers.
- Be realistic with your expectations of yourself and others.
Personally, I think these are all great suggestions. Even though the holiday season can be stressful, perhaps we can all take a look at the suggestions above and make sure we’re taking good care of ourselves. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but taking good care of ourselves first is not a selfish act at all. In fact, it’s the best way I know to take care of others. By taking good care of ourselves, we make sure there’s enough of us to go around to take care of the other important people in our lives.
No matter what your holiday traditions are, I wish you the very best.