This week is the week of Thanksgiving, which for most, is an exciting week. It’s the start of the holidays, it may symbolize more family time, and it also involves a lot of delicious food. What’s not to love, right? For those exact same reasons, it can be terrifying times for those struggling with mental illness, and I’m going to explain why. I’m also going to share a couple of tips, or things to be mindful of this holiday season. Whether you’re struggling with mental health yourself, or know someone who is, there are easy ways to make sure the holiday season goes a little bit smoother.
On a personal level, Thanksgiving for me would always mark the beginning of mental illness flare-ups. Somehow, anything that I have or have had on my plate seems to resurface around this time of year. Anxiety is heightened, eating disorder challenges (re)surface at an all time high, OCD episodes become more frequent–it doesn’t really sound like your average holiday scenario. But while it may sound unusual, 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness on average (National Alliance on Mental Illness), so chances are, even if this doesn’t sound relevant to you, you definitely know someone who can relate.
I’ll name a few reasons why this time of year becomes challenging. Holiday season = colder weather and less sunshine which means there’s potential for Seasonal Affective Disorder, which, let’s be real, isn’t really a plus for anyone. If you’re dealing with a mood related disorder in particular, this can be a tough one, but it’s an added challenge especially for anyone struggling with mental illness. Reason being, it means your baseline mood state becomes compromised.
The holidays also mean a break in routine, which can throw anyone off. Think about it like running a restaurant or a business–those struggling with mental illness are managing an abnormal slew of factors that compromise their state of wellness on a daily basis, so throwing in a routine change, and lowering the baseline mood just makes it that much more difficult.
Let’s talk about family, or just groups in general. Many people dread the holidays, or family functions in general because there always seems to be some kind of drama or disagreement that goes down. It’s no surprise really. The more people you add to any social gathering or equation, the higher the likelihood of arguments and disagreements occurring. On top of that, family members often love to bring your appearance, and other sore subjects into conversation.
You gained weight! You lost weight! So you lost your job? What happened to your partner?
Does any of that sound familiar?
Finally, food. If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, navigating a holiday that is so tied to food can be a real challenge. You’re not only thrown into an environment that is all about food, but you’re also forced to eat food you don’t usually eat around all your family and friends.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) I’ve experienced all of the above numerous times and have come up with ways to manage, and advice for all to enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season. I want to leave you with a couple of reminders and suggestions in hopes that you’ll know that you’re not alone in this world and that it’s normal and OK to feel these things.
STOP TALKING ABOUT APPEARANCES
Instead of complimenting or criticizing others’ appearances, find other things to talk about. For example, go deeper than making a comment about someone’s hair, or their weight, or even their clothing. Why not compliment their energy? Or how about a recent achievement? I personally appreciate compliments about my energy and things that transcend the physical so much more. When someone tells me that my energy makes them feel joy, or at peace, there are few compliments that can top that. I also find that you can bypass the small talk more quickly, and have more meaningful conversations this way. It might be helpful to recommend this to all your family + friends this holiday season so that everyone’s on the same page.
DON’T MAKE COMMENTS ABOUT ANOTHER’S BEHAVIOUR/LIFESTYLE CHOICES
If you see someone doing something odd, don’t make it a point to bring it up at the dinner table. If you disagree with someone’s lifestyle choices, save it for afterwards or address them beforehand if you really need to. For example, if you’re concerned about someone’s eating habits, save it for a private discussion separate from the holiday dining table. Having these conversations one on one are often more comfortable for everyone involved, and there’s less risk of an individual feeling under attack, or put under a microscope. Once again, setting ground rules for conversation at the dinner table or in general can really minimize discomfort for all.
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION
Give yourself permission to feel unease. Give yourself permission to eat whatever you’d like. Give yourself permission to worry less about things that weigh you down. Be kind to yourself.
TAKE REALLY GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF
Like I mentioned earlier, managing mental health is a full time job, so make it easy on yourself by putting in the extra time and energy into taking good care of yourself. If you know that the holidays are a tough time for you, put the work in to prepare and take extra good care of yourself. Make sure you have your bases covered, you’re well rested, and have everything you need taken care of.
TAKE TIME AND SPACE WHEN NEEDED
If you need to excuse yourself from the dinner table, or from the family home, hold that space for yourself. Take a walk outside when you need to, leave the table when you need to, even excuse yourself from an uncomfortable conversation if you need to.
ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR STRENGTH
Last but not least, don’t forget how much you’ve overcome. Give yourself credit for the hard work you put into the fight every single day.
With love & light,
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BY Remy • November 18, 2018
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Hi there, I’m Remy! Welcome to Veggiekins Blog, home to nourishing vegan + gluten-free recipes and tips to live your best balanced and holistic life. I’m a human on a mission to empower you to be well and be kind to your mind, body and soul with the healing power of plants.
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