The holiday season means something different for everyone. What can be the most wonderful time of year for some can also be a worrisome, sad time for those who struggle with their mental health. AdventHealth Medical Group’s Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Victoria Henry, breaks down five things Central Floridians can do to take care of their mental health during the holiday season.
1. Stay Connected
While working on improving mental health, it’s important to be teachable and remain connected to supportive family and friends about your progress. “Setting goals to prioritize your faith and family means making time to connect in natural ways, such as over a meal or on a car ride,” says Henry. Making sure you prioritize these connections will give you time to share your progress and also your struggles with people who can help.
2. Get Plenty of Sleep
According to Henry, sleep deprivation can be a symptom of mental health issues, and it can increase during the holiday seasons. While regular schedules often change during the holidays, Henry notes that “Setting reasonable goals for your schedule and setting a ‘non-negotiable’ scheduling block for your sleep routine can be helpful.”
3. Know When to Walk Away
Difficult conversations often arise during family get-togethers. Sports, religion, politics — whatever it is, if you don’t agree with others, it may call for an uncomfortable chat. Henry says, “It’s necessary not to feel obligated to give your own personal opinions on a matter if it will not be gainfully helpful to those present, or it just makes you feel uncomfortable,” adding, “Using assertive language (starting your responses with I think, I feel, or I believe) will provide you with a chance to share and help to not place someone on the defense or feel like a personal target.” If you’re acknowledging someone else’s feelings, that person will feel like they’re being heard. Of course, using your best judgement, sometimes it may be best to just change the topic or walk away.
4. Listen to Your Feelings and Needs
With changes in family or friends attending holiday activities, sometimes sadness will arise — and that’s ok. Whether you’ve experienced a recent loss, or maybe some “regulars” just aren’t able to travel to your gathering this year, missing someone is a common feeling during the holidays. “It’s appropriate to cry if you feel the need. Not allowing yourself to feel the pain isn’t going to ‘make it go away,’” says Henry. It’s important to allow yourself time to anticipate and acknowledge the feeling of missing them. Henry suggests, “Making a new tradition to remember their story — like making an ornament or writing down a memory or short poem about them — can be helpful. It’s also helpful to share happy memories of them with friends and family, and also to acknowledge they may share in those feelings of grief, too.”
5. Use Your Senses to Find Comfort
Different surroundings can bring new, sometimes unwanted, feelings. If you’re traveling for the holidays and staying with family or friends, it’s ok to take some comforts of your own home with you. Favorite sheets, your pillow, even music or movies, can all help you feel more comfortable. Henry suggests using your five senses to ground yourself in new spaces, saying, “What are five things you can see in the room? What are four things you can hear? Something you can smell or taste? Using your senses to remain calm in new situations can be applied year-round.”
Holidays can be tense for everyone, but for those who struggle with their mental health, they can sometimes be a lot to take on. In Central Florida, resources are available to help cope. Individual and group therapy, as well as psychiatry services, are available through AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute. New group therapy sessions are available at the AdventHealth Medical Group Psychiatry Practice at Winter Park, on Thursdays at 5:00pm, to teach about anxiety and depression. If you’re interested on this resource, please call the practice at Call407-896-8097.
You can also access NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) online for many free resources and events within the community to educate yourself and others on the importance of managing your mental health.