Christmas comes on like a steamroller, doesn’t it? Even if the holidays are not part of your personal faith tradition, in America, Christmas bears down on us all from all sides. Your favorite radio station suddenly switches to all Christmas songs all the time. Every store you visit is filled with holiday displays and deals intended to entice you into buying more and more gifts. The neighbors’ light display can probably be seen from Mars. And every sort of holiday show fills your television screen—and likely the local stages in your community.
But what can you do when something is as inescapable as Christmas? If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or a disorder grounded in trauma, your best move is to make a plan—and give yourself the gift of some calmness in the storm we call Christmas.
Set Some Boundaries
You don’t have to accept every invitation you receive during the holiday season. Skip the office party, take a pass on caroling, and only attend the holiday extravaganza at the local theater if you really want to. Knowing what you are up for—and what you aren’t—is a good way to keep stress and anxiety under control.
This might seem harder when your family is involved. You can’t very well skip the big family dinner or the afternoon spent unwrapping packages, can you? Actually, you can. Setting boundaries to protect your mental health might sometimes disappoint others, but that is okay. If you are honest with your family about why a particular gathering might be difficult for you, you have done your part. And if a compromise seems in order, you might agree to come to a gathering with the understanding that you will go home if things feel overwhelming.
We should note that isolating yourself entirely during the holiday season probably isn’t the best idea, either. Our point here is that you should feel empowered to make decisions about how you spend your time and energy around Christmas. Getting together with a friend or two over hot chocolate and modest gifts might be just the thing you need to feel some holiday cheer without feeling holiday anxiety.
Stick to Your Routines
Protecting your mental health means being intentional about a range of things—including getting enough rest, exercising regularly, eating healthily, and making time to participate in activities you truly enjoy.
The rush of the Christmas season can make it seem like you have to give up your routines just to survive all of the conflicting obligations that come at you from every side. But the opposite is true. The way to effectively survive the holidays is to jealously guard your routines. Don’t stay late at the party. Don’t convince yourself that online shopping is somehow equivalent to exercise. Don’t give up vegetables for a month in favor of Christmas cookies. Don’t take a break from your favorite hobby. (Also, don’t listen to Christmas music if you don’t want to!)
By maintaining your routines, you provide support for your mental health, which in turn will make you better able to navigate the stresses and demands of Christmas.
Don’t Bring Christmases Past Into the Present
For many people, the holidays are colored by a range of bad memories. Pulling those memories forward into the present can ruin the holiday season for you before it even begins.
If you can, give yourself the gift of the present. Focus on this holiday and the joys to be found during the season. You don’t have to give your past the weight it sometimes seems to demand around the holidays. Mindfulness practice is one way to build up the ability to stay present in the current moment.
A Gift You Won’t Return: Exceptional Mental Health Care
No matter the season, your mental health is a key component of your overall quality of life. If you are struggling with one of the many varieties of depression, with an anxiety or panic disorder, or with a disorder grounded in traumatic experiences, we can help. At Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health in Colorado, we are committed to personalized care grounded in expertise and compassion. Better mental health is a gift that everyone deserves.