As the calendar year comes to a close, we are once again surrounded by Friendsgivings, holiday planning, Christmas lists, holiday movie specials, and most importantly family gatherings. Family members scrambling to fly in annually for the traditional cutting of the turkey, or the placing of the tree topper. Believe it or not, the holiday season is not always a merry time. In fact, holiday seasons can actually cause individuals to feel the opposite. Holidays can resurface unsettled emotions and conflicts, and trigger repressed arduous memories. This season is undoubtedly an unavoidable time. For some it symbolizes a period to regrettably come to terms with the past. It is a time when individuals have yet another moment to heavily grieve their lost ones. It is a time where individuals seek any opportunity to be alone, in hopes of avoiding reality. It is also a time where depression and suicide rates are the highest. So, what to you may be a merry celebration filled with laughter, traditions, embarrassing childhood stories, hugs, and love, may be someone else’s period of sadness. Here is your five-step guide to surviving the holidays, MindMyMelanin edition.
Tip One: Be Realistic with your Limits
Unfortunately not everyone in your family will get along (including you). And that is quite alright. However, they are still your family, and you cannot change that. What you can change is the amount of family time they get to spend with you. Thanks to hotels, Airbnb’s, and plane tickets, you have the privilege to limit how much exposure your loved ones receive from you. Isn’t that a beauty? For example, me and my papi have a maximum of three days before we start arguing about anything from my single life to why he needs to answer his phone more regularly. Anything after day three is a war. A very avoidable war. So be realistic with your time and limits.
Tip Two: Spend what you Can
Holiday seasons can become mentally, physically and financially exhausting when it does not have to. A large component of this exhaustion stems from financial needs. AKA money. Let’s be straightforward, everything costs money. The holiday season is no exemption. Between gifts, traveling, food, parties, etc., it may feel like you never have enough money. However, this does not mean that you have to go placing yourself in debt! Give yourself a budget, and be realistic with it. Not every family member will be able to get their number one gift, and not every detail in your party planning may get fulfilled. And that is quite alright. Only you know what your monthly income and bills are. With that being said, you are not obligated to go into debt trying to make someone else happy. Budgeting from early will be your best friend. Try only spending cash, swiping debit, or be like me and don’t spend anything. -Just kidding!
Tip Three: Fight Loneliness & Isolation
This tip is tremendously important for us with mental health issues. Surround yourself with someone or something! Avoid spending these moments alone if you can. Yes it is true that we all enjoy alone time. It is healthy and necessary for self peace. However, I would like to argue that on certain holidays ( and anniversaries), you should not be alone. This season is one of those times. The reason is that being isolated grants you additional time to ruminate. It grants you additional time to miss those who are no longer in your life. It also grants you additional time to feel depressed. Pick up a winter hobby, or go out and help at a shelter. Ask your friends to facetime you or send a quick text. If you are religious, attend a church service. Being lonely during the biggest family oriented season should not happen. Yet it does. If there is a chance you could be isolated during these times… please plan it out.
Tip Four: Acknowledging Your Loss
For some, this holiday season may be the first celebrated without a loved one. To keep their memories alive, take this opportunity to continue some traditions of theirs. Even better, make new ones to continuously remember them. Holiday seasons bring forth the freedom to grieve. It also provides us the opportunity to be grateful for the memories that we have left of our loved one(s). For your mental, try spending these holiday moments with uplifting individuals. Please keep in mind that not everyone grieves at the same pace. Some individuals take months, and some take years. That is quite normal.
Tip Five: Compliance, Compliance, Compliance
Holiday seasons call for increased compliance when it comes to your medications. Whether you take medication for hypertension, diabetes, birth control, or mental health, please keep taking it. Personally, when I am at my lowest I stop taking all of my antidepressants. Not the most intelligent decision, but I am being honest. Do not be like me. Please take your medications. They are to be taken daily for your aid. Throughout this chaotic season, it is not unlikely for someone to forget to take their medication. Set alarm reminders, write down sticky notes and place them in a common area, or have someone remind you. Whatever you do, and no matter how you feel in that exact moment, compliance is for you.
I hope you find these five tips resourceful and encouraging for this upcoming holiday season.