It's the holiday season and for more people than you might think this is not the happiest time of the year. The holidays can be stressful and cause anxiety for many but more so if you suffer from depression already and you sprinkle a little Seasonal Affective Disorder on top. Not everyone celebrates the same holidays, leaving people feeling isolated from the majority and not everyone has friends and family to share them with. Which is a little bit of how I'm feeling this year.
I read an article yesterday about how to prepare your mental health for the holidays. Much of the advice I thought was sound but some was a bit impractical and it made me think of the things I do to prepare. I always do and this year more than ever. The holidays are also anniversaries for me, the anniversary of when my husband and I started dating and the anniversary of when he proposed. He doesn't believe in anniversaries so I doubt he's thinking about them but I do. This would be our 22 year together and the same age of my youngest sister, literally a lifetime together. I can already feel my heart squeezing.
The number one thing I do is make plans! Get things on my calendar! Whether it's weekend trip or lunch with a friend. It doesn't matter if it gets rescheduled the important thing is to plan it. It will give you small things to look forward to. A couple things that I planned for myself was trying to get my book group back together. I chose a fun book and a December date. The other thing I planned was to go back to doing NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writers Month, which is writing 50,000 words in the month of November. So I had a book to read and a book to write. I did have other small things that I planned but these were some bigger things I had to work towards every day.
The second thing I do is to try something new! For example, I'm not big on cooking at all. My husband was the fan of cooking but he's not here and it looks like I'm going to have to feed myself from now on. I'm trying to eat healthy because I'm still working on shedding that weight from my med changes last year so I've been teaching myself how to cook. There's a lot involved in that! Meal planning for the week, grocery shopping for food that isn't frozen and in a box and then attempting to make said meals. I've discovered some things are very easy and adding them into my basket and other things I'll try again on a day of great boredom. Other things I've done is pick a book I've always wanted to read but be intimidated by (I'm a big reader) or travel (but I try to do that as much as possible anyway). You get my drift, you might want to try journaling or joining a very lazy book club.
Connect with your people! If you don't have friends or family near you make phone dates to talk to them. I find that by making a call date with someone I'm far more likely to talk to them than if I just call them randomly. Lets face it, texting only gets you so far if your depressed. If you do have people nearby see the number one thing, make plans! Anything you can do to stay connected.
This is an easy one, do something that requires you to come back tomorrow, or a goal! This can be binge watching Suits, choosing books that will keep you reading every day, some type of challenge (for example, this year I'm doing the Plank Challenge to get my core muscles in shape so my back will stop fritzing out like I'm 80), starting a craft project like learning to knit (it's super easy). You can do these things on days it's hard to get out of bed.
Something my doctor always says and I've always ignored her until this year is staying active! Because I get exercise induced migraines I tend to be cautious about exercise but since I've been feeling a bit better and recently acquired a treadmill, I've added that into my new daily routine and it does help. It's easier to get moving and I feel like I've done something, even if that's all I did. I've even ventured outside to walk and am really enjoying the feeling. Who knew?!
Lastly, develop a daily routine if you can. If there's anytime of the year you should try to have a good routine it's during the holidays. It will keep your mind busy... most of the time. Just remember to be gentle with yourself and don't go overboard, which is what my OCD wants to do. If you need a mental health day in bed to watch all the Harry Potter movies then you should do it! You know you.
Make these things as basic or as ambitious as you want them to be. Remember this is about taking care of your mental health during the holiday season and that's definitely the gift you want to give yourself.
Leading me to an important take away from the article I read that I hadn't thought of before is set boundaries! I don't really have to do this during the holidays but certainly people with children, full time work, full time health issues, family and mental health issues needs to set holiday boundaries. If you can't do everything it's ok. It will get done. I'm just a big advocate for boundaries all the time. I didn't have any choice after I became a full time walking migraine.
If you must be The Grinch at the holidays try to be the Grinch after his heart grew three sizes too large. It's easy to say, I know, but from one sufferer to another I know we can get through this holiday season together!