Holidays can be both festive and stressful. For those suffering from mental illness, this time of year can exacerbate symptoms including hallucinations and an increase in substance abuse, depression and anxiety.
“Most surveys show as that over 50 percent, sometimes close to 70 percent of those with a mental illness report a worsening of symptoms during this time,” Dr. Stevan Lahr of Family & Children’s Services said in an interview with KOTV News On 6.
Recognizing that stress taking its toll is the first step. Emily Farmer, F&CS senior clinical director and suicidologist, said that individuals should check their stress levels and reach out for help or support if they need to.
“Take a moment to spend time with a supportive friend, schedule an appointment with a mental health provider or call COPES (Community Outreach Psychiatric Emergency Services) at 918.744.4800 or 988 if you’re struggling,” she said.
Here are some actions to help individuals navigate through the holiday season:
- Accept Your Feelings
Holidays can bring up a range of emotions in people. Sometimes you can even experience seemingly contradictory emotions all at once. Try your best to acknowledge and accept your emotions rather than place judgment on them. It’s OK to feel happy; it’s OK to feel sad; it’s even OK to feel both happy and sad. Give yourself compassion and allow yourself to sit with whatever you’re feeling.
- Maintain Healthy Habits
For many people, holidays lead to a massive disruption in the day-to-day routine. But maintaining healthy habits like going to therapy, getting enough sleep, and exercising are critical to keeping mental health on track.
- Set Boundaries
People like to be generous during the holidays, but that generosity doesn’t have to come at the expense of having healthy boundaries. If hosting an event or buying an expensive gift is too stressful, it’s OK to say no. It’s also OK to limit the time you spend with family that you may have a complicated dynamic.
- Make Time to Connect
Connection and meaning are critical to our mental health. Make time for your meaningful relationships and connect with yourself through self-care. You can connect with loved ones who are no longer with you through a family tradition or a personal remembrance ritual.
- Discuss Social Expectations
Parents should have different social expectations for different kids, and if necessary, communicate them to their extended family. Let family and friends know where your child is in terms of her bravery so they know what things to do and what things to avoid.
- Practice Mindfulness
Find a quiet place for just a few minutes. Get into a comfortable sitting position with your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes and focus on breathing only. Do this for a few minutes. Listen to the sound of your breath and notice how your body feels during this time. When thoughts of other moments come racing into your mind, acknowledge them and let them go by as if they are on a conveyor belt, and refocus your attention on your breath again. Do this over and over.
Have a joyful holiday. Recognizing and eliminating stress can help.