Stay mentally well during the festive season

The holiday season can be an exciting and relaxing time for some, but it can also be a stressful and draining for many. If you struggle to get through the holiday season, you’re not alone. It’s a hectic time for a lot of young people, even though it’s not always noticeable. The holiday season can add a layer of responsibility and worry. It’s easy to fall into the trap of overthinking and worrying about what could go wrong, your list of responsibilities, or even comparing yourself unfavourably to other friends based on what they post on social media. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean the challenges we face on a daily basis suddenly go away. However, I’d like to share with you a few tips that may help.

Accept what is. You understand the behaviours of your family members more than anyone else; you know who tells the jokes, who doesn’t want to participate in Christmas activities and who has unrealistic expectations of you. No one is suddenly going to change simply because it’s the festive season. So try not to put your energy in attempting to change anyone. Instead, focus your energy on enjoying the festive season and the people that make you happy.

Don’t ignore your feelings. For some this might be a time when mum or dad is either in hospital or receiving home treatment. It’s ok to feel sad about this because you are a human with emotions, so don’t simply ignore your feelings. I’m not saying you should spend the whole day nurturing the sadness either. However, share how you feel with someone you trust; it could be with a parent who’s well, a sibling, an auntie, an uncle or even a friend you trust. Talking or sharing your feelings is something that helps to chip away at the sadness. You can explore different ways to capture how you feel and let them go. I enjoy drawing and writing songs.

Accept help. Notice how many times you ignore or reject help that is offered to you. It is not uncommon for a young person living with a parent with a mental health difficulty to feel that they have to do everything. The exaggerated sense of responsibility is something that I have come across a lot. The truth is that if you continue to do everything on your own, the load will get heavier and you will drain yourself. It is very easy to break a single matchstick but very difficult to break a bundle of sticks. Accept help from the people you trust.

Choose to do what makes you happy. Make a list of activities you would like to do and plan to do them. It could be anything from the games you would like to play, to the friends you’d like to meet or speak with. Chores and homework are unavoidable sometimes, so there’s nothing wrong in making time for these or other necessary activities that you can’t get away from, but do make space and prioritise your pleasurable activities.

Beware of social media. This is the time that your friends might post their beautifully decorated trees with gifts underneath and happy faces as they go Christmas shopping or meet with friends. Now, it’s fine for people to post what they want on social channels but please be aware that social media is an illusion. Not everything you see is true and what people post is not always a true reflection of what is happening in their lives. If you end up unfavourably comparing yourself to friends, remind yourself that what’s most important is what’s happening in your life, and not in the virtual world. There’s nothing wrong in taking a break from social media.

Look after yourself. This might sound like a cliché because we hear it all the time, but it doesn’t take away the essence of the advice. If you keep taking money out of your piggy bank without putting any money into it you’d eventually run out of money. Looking after yourself is like putting money into your piggy bank, or adding colour to your painting. It’s not unusual to want to stay in bed all day, lose your appetite or eat too much when you are feeling drained. It’s important you try and get some sleep, eat well, get some exercise or hang out with your friends or family members.

These are just a few tips that may help, but you may have other strategies that have helped in the past, so do use them. The best gift that you can give yourself is your happiness.