The Thanksgiving rush has barely died down, Christmas is right around the corner, and the first day of 2016 will be here before we know it. The holiday season is one of the most exciting times of the year; but, for people suffering with mental illnesses, it can also be one of the most stressful time of the year. This can be especially true for college students. We’re home for the holidays to relax and have a good time, but all the lights and sparkles can create quite the opposite effect.
Part two of my “Dear Anxiety” series–a collection of posts dedicated to opening up conversations about mental health among college students and eliminating harmful stigmas–is all about dealing with mental illnesses during the holiday season. So without further ado, here are five things to remember when all the lights and sparkle make mental illnesses seem a little too dark too handle.
You are loved. This is first on the list, because it’s most important. When you’re battling your mind, it’s hard to love yourself and accept love from others. Feeling like you don’t deserve love seems to be a pretty common symptom that trails behind mental illnesses, so the best gift you could give yourself this Christmas is to simply remember that you are loved no matter what.
Don’t withdraw. The maddening bustle of the season can be intimidating and stressful (not to mention triggering) when you’re attempting to keep a mental illness like anxiety or depression in check. It’s easy to separate yourself from all the happy and boisterous festivities, but isolation allows negative emotions and thoughts to run-about unchecked. It might seem scary, but it’s important to stay surrounded by a strong support system and to participate in the world around you.
Don’t overwhelm yourself. On the flip side, don’t allow yourself or others to place unnecessary obligations on your “to do” list. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by everything there is to do that absolutely nothing gets done, and that’s certainly not a good way to support a healthy state of mind. Keep the must dos on your schedule to a minimum and allow yourself to simply enjoy life with your loved-one’s instead of making yourself miserable with unimportant dates.
It’s okay to ask for help. This is honestly one of the hardest things ever, especially for college students. We’re venturing into adult independence. We work hard to be mature and responsible. We try to keep the internal struggle of a mental illness in check. We try so hard, but sometimes it isn’t enough — something you shouldn’t ever be ashamed of. Sometimes we need some extra help, and that’s completely okay.
You are enough. When you’re home from break, it’s easy to fall into an old pattern of comparison driven guilt and despair. There are so many people doing so many things while laughing and smiling that it’s hard to not feel like you’re worth less than everyone else, because those feelings of holiday joy aren’t always at the forefront of your emotions. Don’t let that make you feel inferior– remember that nothing, not even a battle with something like depression, PTSD, or anxiety, can take away the true essence of who you are. Remember that you are enough, no matter your struggles.
How you do keep a healthy mindset during the holiday season?