Tips for navigating mental health during the holidays

Published: Dec. 23, 2021 at 5:01 PM EST
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports about 64% of people with mental illness said the holidays make their conditions worse.

This time of year brings many complications with it, like breaks in daily routines and disagreements among loved ones. And this year, many tables will have an empty chair.

ARROW resident in counseling Katie Dolieslager said 2021 brought a lot of divide and loss, so it may be more important than ever to check up on your mental health.

“Everyone is carrying something going into the holiday season. For some folks, this might truly be the most wonderful time of the year, and for some folks, it might actually be the opposite of that,” Dolieslager said.

Addressing loss and divide can be hard, but Dolieslager said it’s important to recognize negative emotions and allow yourself to be sad and angry, even when others around you are celebrating.

“The past two years, we as humans have been carrying a lot. It’s really important to be able to recognize and hold and process anything that we are holding,” she said.

With this year being the second holiday season affected by COVID-19, some traditions may still not be possible, and some gatherings may look different. There’s a sense of loss that may accompany the holidays this year.

“With COVID, with possibly making plans that get ruined or cannot come to fruition anymore, it’s important to make space for creating new memories,” Dolieslager said.

Allowing yourself to embrace what’s going on around you is called radical acceptance of your current situation, according to Dolieslager, and it’s vital for having an enjoyable experience when traditions change.

“Make space for creating a new memory, doing something new, and rather than being fixated or stuck on how things should have been, making space for change,” Dolieslager said.

Managing the holidays is often tied to being mindful, she said. Be aware of what others around you are experiencing, and offer empathy to them.

“It’s really important that we are able to be mindful of one another, be mindful of what each other’s boundaries are, what each other’s personal preference is and offering compassion to ourselves and one another through navigating all of that,” she added.

Dolieslager offered a few tips for navigating your mental health around the holiday season:

  • Create boundaries. Know when to say no.
  • Practice self-care. Go for walks, spend time alone, take a break from social media.
  • Find a support system. Know who is there for you and be there for them.
  • Eat well and get good sleep.
  • Continue going to therapy or start therapy. Don’t break with your routine. Or, if you’re struggling, seek help.
  • Give love and compassion. Be willing to give love as well as receive it.

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