The HOLIDAYS. What does the phrase conjure up for you? Warm wishes, presents, visits with family and friends? No matter what you celebrate, the term itself can sometimes be overwhelming; it can pull up negative feelings. For many people the holidays themselves can produce stress, anxiety, depression, among other experiences. In fact, many of us have feelings about the holidays that are not especially positive; in some cases, they can be downright negative. This can be especially true if you are dealing with a mental health condition.
The problem is it seems everyone enjoys this time of year. Lights are blazing, music is playing, decorations are up, and plans are being made.
So, what to do if you don’t feel that way or if the holidays trigger negative emotions?
First off, keep in mind that it just SEEMS that everyone is having a good time during the holiday season; many people struggle this time of year for a variety of reasons. A considerable number struggle silently, not wanting to share their negative feelings with others for fear that they will ruin the holidays for them. Still others valiantly forge ahead as if the holidays are fun, when in fact there are negative emotions associated with them that they keep hidden, thus producing even more stress and anxiety.
For many years my experience of the holidays was not positive for a variety of reasons. I felt lost among people who seemed to be having such a good time. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me; why was I the odd person out. Then I realized, I needed to let myself feel what I was feeling and not question it. It was what it was and in some cases I had my reasons. In doing that, in giving myself permission to have my emotions, I was better able to accept the joy that other people were experiencing. My experiences weren’t theirs, but I could still have some fun. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did get better for me, in some cases with help, and it might for you.
The trick to getting through the holidays can be figuring how you really feel and sharing that with at least someone who will not judge your emotions. Sometimes that person is YOU. Getting through the holidays can require being honest with yourself about how you feel; letting yourself feel what is going on, positively or negatively. Sometimes it’s about reaching out for help from a good friend or someone you see related to your mental health condition. This can be very important if you’re struggling with your emotions or mood. Just know you’re not alone in how you feel and sharing your feelings might give someone else the chance to say what’s really going on for them during the holidays.
Throughout the holiday season NAMI Connecticut has support groups available. If you are interested, just click here for a listing.
Thanks, and best to you.
Executive Director, NAMI Connecticut