Christmastime is a generally a season of joy, but for those living with mental illnesses, it can be laden with challenges. Many aspects of this time of year can make managing a mental health condition even more difficult. In the midst of the festivities, keep in mind these three ways that the Christmas season can be hard for those dealing with mental illnesses.
1. Strings of Social Situations
For those impacted by mental illness, the frequency of social events stretching from Thanksgiving to New Year can trigger symptoms ranging from depression to manic episodes. While connecting with others is an important part of living well with a mental health condition, feeling obligated to socialize with many people in a short span of time can make the holiday season exhausting and difficult.
Interacting with people seen just once a year can be stressful for anyone, and it’s often even harder for those living with mental illnesses. Those unfamiliar with emotional disorders may not understand the struggles and may do or say things that create additional hurdles. And, even when friends and family are incredibly understanding and accommodating, simply navigating a string of unfamiliar social situations can lead to stress that makes symptoms more difficult to handle.
2. Change or Lack of Routine
Few things make it hard to stick to a treatment plan like a schedule shakeup. The busyness of the Christmas season can lead to fewer visits to caregivers and less time for self-care. Getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly and eating balanced meals are all important elements of managing a mental illness, and all become more challenging when time is tight and normal routines are set aside. And, an irregular schedule can make it harder to take medication on time.
Not having enough time or energy for self-care can lead to a vicious cycle that makes the holidays increasingly difficult. For instance, being low on sleep can heighten the symptoms of many mental health conditions, which in turn makes it more difficult to deal with situations that are out of the ordinary.
3. Unrealistic Expectations
While nearly everyone struggles to live up the expectations of the season at one point or another, those managing mental health challenges often find the “shoulds” of the holidays especially difficult. In addition to serving as triggers for symptoms, added pressures can make it more difficult to be consistent with self-care.
The Christmas season is often laden with expectations about what to do and what emotions to express. Those living with serious mental illnesses often experience pressure to act more well than they feel, which can be a significant source of stress and make stability more challenging. Being expected to exude happiness and joy while they’re struggling can lead to an increase in symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
How The Well Helps
The Well Community serves as a haven for those living serious mental illnesses, especially during the holiday season. It offers its members stability and a sense of belonging by being a place where they are accepted, supported and encouraged.
In addition, it gives members opportunities to celebrate in ways that are comfortable and meaningful for them. At the annual Christmas party, Well members receive gift bags filled with personal care supplies, helping them better care for themselves throughout the holiday season and beyond. Active members are also given Walmart gift cards, which many members use to buy gifts for family members and for each other. And through Thursday Night Life, members praise God together for sending His Son.
Your gift to the Well Community will help us continue to provide a haven for those in the Dallas area who struggle with serious mental illnesses—during the Christmas season and all year long.