There is a lot going on around the holidays! Whether it’s the parties, shopping, buying gifts or participating in family get-togethers, there is immense pressure to partake in the holiday cheer.
In Sacramento County alone, it is estimated that nearly 300,000 residents are living with a mental illness, which means we all need to bring understanding and kindness to each other and ourselves as we greet this holiday season.
Laura Bemis, a member of the Stop Stigma Sacramento Speaker’s Bureau, on behalf of the Sacramento County “Mental Illness: It’s not always what you think” project shares her coping strategies she uses during the holidays:
“The holiday season can be very stressful and depressing for me and for others like me who are living with mental illness. Even though I have a fulfilling life, the holidays make me think of my family and how much I miss them. I lost both my parents to cancer and both my sisters took their lives. To cope, I have made a ‘new’ family with close friends, who now ARE my family and help me feel connected during the holiday season. By keeping active, giving back to the community, and spending time with my ‘homemade’ family, these are some of the coping strategies that help me get through the season – and not just making it bearable, but enjoyable. I will always miss my immediate family, but through my friends, taking care of myself and using my coping skills, I am able to see just how blessed I am.”
Mental Health Tips during the Holidays:
- Don’t overbook yourself. There are often demands to be with family and friends, but don’t overextend or exhaust yourself during the holidays. You owe yourself the time to breathe and check-in to make sure you are in a healthy mental space.
- Do things that nourish you. It can be easy to get caught up in what your parents or your kids want or expect out of the holidays, but don’t forget that your needs are just as important. If you need to take an hour each day to read or meditate, make sure to set that time aside.
- Spend time with people who support you. Knowing that the holidays are coming up, increase time with those in your support system. Make sure you invest time with people who bring you joy and peace rather than those who cause friction or strife.
- Keep your expectations realistic. Be practical about the money you are spending on loved ones and don’t put pressure on the holidays to be extraordinary. You and your family members are only human, so every day might not be perfect or magical – and that’s ok.
- Get enough sleep. It might be a small thing, but getting the sleep you need every night can keep you a little healthier and happier. Sleep deprivation can heighten emotions and cause unnecessary, added stress.
It’s also important to remember that for people in recovery, the holidays can be a particularly challenging time for their sobriety. You can help those in recovery during the holiday season by demonstrating understanding and support – and even consider planning a sober holiday event or one where overindulgence is limited.
For those in recovery, below are important strategies for sobriety and enjoy holidays:
- Before heading to holiday festivities, have a plan to stay sober
- Choose activities and your company to reduce triggers
- Spend time with those who are supportive and keep away from drama
- Have a response ready for those repeatedly offering alcohol (I’m driving; I’m the DD; or I don’t drink alcohol)
- Bring your own non-alcoholic beverages and fun mock-tails to parties
- Start your own traditions to celebrate in a way that works for you, such as traveling, get a massage or other self-care activities
- Avoid putting too much pressure on yourself – it’s okay to say no to invitations, and know you are entitled to walk away from uncomfortable situations
- Volunteer with a local charity
- Attend a public holiday event
- Plan your own sober holiday event for your friends and family and celebrate your sobriety
- Ask for help. When faced with cravings reach out and talk about your cravings and remember your motivations to stay clean and sober.
As we approach the new year, remember to take care of yourself, and keep in mind that the holidays may be a stressful time for many of your family members and friends too. Reach out to loved ones who might be struggling with the pressure of the holidays, take the time you need for yourself and enjoy this holiday season!