Protect Your Mental Health During the Holidays, particularly in “Merry Ol’ Covid Times.”
The holidays can be a stressful time for most of us, but it can hold extra pitfalls for people who are diagnosed with mental health conditions or have experienced losses in the past year. Add in the special challenges and losses that COVID-19 has brought to the equation and most of us are probably impacted.
If you have pre-existing mental health conditions, you already know that management of symptoms is key. Continuing the course of treatment that has been successful for you is extremely important.
- Pay attention to sleep, diet, and activity patterns and try your best to maintain consistency. Continue your existing medication regimen as prescribed.
- Be aware of your baseline and (i) have a plan for what you can do if you notice changes and (ii) include others in your planning.
- If you notice your symptoms worsening or changing, consult with your provider sooner rather than later, to be proactive in addressing these changes.
- If you are taking medications, be mindful of how certain foods can interact with your medications; and, if you drink, always be mindful of how alcohol affects your mental state.
- Use your support system. The way you access your supports may be different right now. Regardless of you connect with your supports, there is another person at the other end of the call, text, or video. If you need to find supports or need some extra support, do not hesitate to call VJLAP. We are here to help you navigate.
If you have experienced loss this year, you may feel the losses anew with the holidays. Death of loved ones, divorce, or other losses are difficult on their own; but the holiday season may magnify the impact of these losses. Often, the first holiday without a loved one can be especially painful and difficult to navigate. Acknowledge these losses and your experiences. Talk with someone
about it. It doesn’t matter whether you choose a friend, family member, VJLAP, or another professional; just talk about how you are feeling and what you are going through. You are not alone.
This year, we may not have been able to celebrate any holidays or milestones with our families and friends (or we may not have been able to take that yearly escape break). Traveling is not advised and could be dangerous for our health and for those we visit. We may not have been able to hold the new babies; be present for weddings, graduations, or funerals; or find refuge in one, some, or all of the many experiences that were once normal for us. Acknowledge these losses and validate that they do matter to you. Do not compare your losses to others’. What you are experiencing is exactly that, your experience. It is valid, and it matters. Find new ways to mark celebrations and connect with others.
- It may be difficult (maybe even exhausting) to teach your relatives how to use Zoom or Facetime, but the frustration will quickly dissipate and will be worth it when you are looking at your loved-one’s smile.
- Sending and receiving holiday cards via “snail mail” could brighten your day and someone else’s.
- This is a year of new experiences and finding different ways to observe the holidays. You are in good company with others who are finding new ways to celebrate old traditions.
Remember the very realistic stress and hustle and bustle that accompanied the “normal” holidays, and, perhaps, see the current circumstances as a chance to take a break from that stress. This holiday season can be whatever you want it to be – it just may be executed a different way than usual!
Now is also the time to remember the good things in your life. Practice gratitude and count the positives. Sometimes we can be so focused on what is wrong that we forget what is right.
Resource: “Preparing for the Holidays During Covid-19.” Mental Health America: article