The holiday season is portrayed as cheerful and festive but do you feel cheerful? Balancing your mental health and the holidays can be a little tricky if all you’re feeling is blue.
In this article, I’ll share how I get myself in a festive mood.
What the holidays meant for me
I grew up in Jamaica where Christmas was celebrated a little differently than in the States. I never had a Christmas tree and my grandmother was very cost-efficient which meant no pepper lights around the house.
Growing up in the Seventh-Day Adventist church, I was taught that Christmas was a pagan holiday and Jesus was born during tax time so celebrating his birthday on the 25th was pointless and forbidden.
No Christmas carols were sung in church and no presents were given. After spending twelve to fifteen years in that environment, I became used to it.
I vividly remember one day, sitting on the veranda of one of the many houses we lived in (we moved a lot!) and broke down the meaning of Christmas, I was about eight or nine years old.
I concluded that Santa Claus was not real because he never visited where I lived.
If by some odd chance he did find out where I lived that year, there was no way to enter the house because there was no chimney for him to slide down, just windows and a veranda with grills.
But the lack of gifts didn’t make me hate Christmas growing up, I loved walking down the street before the sun had fully risen to see all the decorated trees and watch the lights dance across them.
Mental health and the holidays
In the states, the holidays are focused on family traveling far and wide to meet up for a few days and after arguing the entire time, they set aside their problems just in time to celebrate and then head back to their separate homes.
There are more than enough holiday movies that have used this theme as a plot but the difference between real life and the movies is that most real family members never go around each other, no matter the time of the year.
If this reminds you of your family then you’re not alone. Balancing your mental health and the holidays around negative family members can create unnecessary stress. Understand that not everyone means you well and unfortunately, that includes some family members as well, especially around the holidays.
This can be particularly hard to deal with especially around the holidays when every ad and jingle you hear is about family and giving gifts but if your blood family has failed you, your chosen family will never let you down.
How to stay mentally healthy during the holidays
It’s ultimately up to you to make your holidays feel merry. Here are a few things to incorporate if you’re feeling stressed because you can’t afford to do the things you’d like or go to the places you’d rather be.
Celebrate the holidays with your friends
Friends are your chosen family; they’re the ones you call when you’re feeling down and need somebody to talk to. During the holidays, they might need your support more than you think so don’t forget to check in on them and tell them that you love them.
Instead of stressing over money, get creative, and make your gift instead of buying one. Even if you’re not a creative person, there is something that you’re good at and I guarantee you that a handmade present will be more appreciated than a store-bought one. It’s the love that you put into the gift that counts, not the gift itself. This is why most parents hang their kid’s art on the fridge, they appreciate the time and effort put into making that art.
Don’t stress yourself
Utilize stress management techniques to help you cope with the blues. Try going for a walk outside. I used to enjoy walking in the cold whenever I was in a mood because the cold air would numb my face and the cold made me forget why I was in a mood in the first place. Now instead of walking in the cold air I’ll either meditate for twenty minutes or write in my journal.
From my observation of people I have noticed that instead of being grateful for what they have, they put themselves through unnecessary stress to acquire things they or their kids do not need.
Learning to be appreciative of the things you currently have to teach you that you don’t need more things in your life to be happy. Take the minimalist approach, the less clutter in your life, the lighter and happier you’ll feel.
Live in the moment
Take a look around you, you have life, friends who love you and care for you. Appreciate the things that you have and understand that whatever you need will always find you in the most opportune time.
There is beauty all around you, all you have to do is open your eyes to what’s in front of you. Don’t complain about what you don’t have, if it’s meant for you, you’ll get it.
Enjoy the crisp air, the numerous selection of holiday movies, the hot chocolate, and all the pepper lights, your mental health depends on how you view your reality so view it with excitement.
Every year is different. Trying to create the “best holiday ever” every year is an unrealistic goal so allow yourself to adapt and change with the times.
Sometimes you’ll feel up and sometimes you’ll feel low, allow yourself to feel all the emotions without trying to suppress them because like everything else in life, they too shall pass.
Take it easy
You hold the power and the key to your happiness, so be gentle with yourself and create a holiday that makes you happy. If all else fails, kick back with some hot chocolate and Netflix and forget about everything going on outside. Find simple ways to balance your mental health and the holidays to avoid being overly stressed.