Happy December, Tampa Bay! As we navigate this last month of 2022, we want to discuss this season’s mental health elephant in the room: the holidays. While last month we discussed tactics for discussing our mental health with our loved ones, this month is all about caring for ourselves through what can be a stressful time.
According to NAMI, referencing data from 2014, 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse. While that number may feel pretty staggering to think about, holiday stress is real. At this time of year we’re often spending one or multiple days away from our routines and our homes, and may face additional stress around family dynamics and finances, among other things. It can be a time when loneliness and grief pop up.
Maybe you love the holidays and can’t wait to spend time with loved ones or create new traditions. That is so great! The thing about stress is that even good stress can mean we need a little extra support. And when we know we’re going off of our typical routine, whether we’re stressed or excited (or both!), it can help to do a bit of preparation beforehand. Here are some things we’ll be trying as we head into the holiday season:
- Getting to know our triggers: Spend some time journaling about your holiday worries. They can be anything big or small, and when writing try your best to refrain from judging how you’re feeling. The goal here is to see what feels most stressful for you right now. (Some common ones are finances, family dynamics, grief if you’ve lost a loved one or been through a breakup, or feelings of overwhelm..but it can be absolutely anything!)
- Setting boundaries beforehand: Read through what you wrote in the exercise above. Circle some worries that stand out to you. For each worry, write down two boundaries you could set that might support you in moving through them.
- Creating a physical toolkit: Before going into a stressful holiday situation, think about the physical objects that soothe you. From lip balm to a smooth stone, your medications to a bag of tea, gathering some small items into a zippered pouch makes it easy to have some care and comfort with you at all times. This can be as simple as a snack because you know hunger keeps you from feeling your best, or a list of activities that help you move through anxiety.
- Making a support plan: What kinds of social support helps your mental health? Maybe you meet with a therapist, attend recovery meetings, or have a weekly Zoom chat with friends. If you’ll be off your typical routine (and who isn’t during the holidays?) create a plan for how you will meet this need in the meantime. Maybe you attend a virtual recovery meeting, text with a friend, or keep a journal to bring to your next therapy session. Having a plan for alternate support can help you go into the holidays stronger.
From all of us at Let’s Talk Tampa Bay, we wish you and your loved ones a beautiful holiday season. And remember that no matter what your plans are, you can always reach out to us at 844-YOU-OKAY for our free, confidential support line for Hillsborough County. Just think of us as a part of your toolkit.
We’ll see you next year,
Your Team at Tampa Bay Thrives