Mental Illness: Coping with the Holidays

The holiday season is supposed to be a time full of joy, parties and gatherings with friends and families. But the holidays can be a difficult time for many persons dealing with:

  • Personal grief,
  • Loneliness,
  • Illnesses of all kinds,
  • Economic concerns,
  • Separation from family members, and
  • Relationship issues like separation or divorce

The commercialization of the holiday season bombards us with unrealistic expectations. And many of us feel overwhelmed when our “to-do” list goes on forever! While some people experience temporary periods of depression like the “holiday blues” or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), many of us live with mental illness every day. The holidays are especially difficult when our own feelings of sadness, loneliness, depression and anxiety are the opposite of the “Hallmark” images we see all around us.

Know that whatever you are feeling, it is right for you.

It is all right to excuse yourself for some time away. On the other hand, for some people it is hard to feel down when helping someone else. There are many opportunities to volunteer during the holiday season. The satisfaction of giving to others can help you put your own problems in perspective. Live in the now! Try to let go of past regrets and experiences and find joy in the present moment. And remember, laughter is good medicine!

Tips for Family and Friends

Set realistic goals and be flexible. The holidays are about love and caring one another. We would all do better to let go of the image of the “perfect” holiday and focus on accepting ourselves and our loved ones without judging, criticizing or advising.

Celebrate the Moment

Despite our good intentions, remember that the holidays rarely turn out as planned. Focus on making them a special time for you and your family, no matter what the circumstances. Celebrate this season of hope and expectation. Celebrate the many blessings in your life.

Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder, Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries, Submitted by Laurie Huske, NAMI Kane County North

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