Emily Ulrich, Faculty
What is the first thing that pops into your head when you think of the holiday season? Do you think of tinsel and lights? Maybe a menorah or a big family meal. The holidays are often full of happiness and celebration, but for those that struggle with mental illness, or have experienced damaging loss or trauma, this time of year can be an especially difficult experience. Even for those that don’t regularly battle a mental illness, the holidays are a stressful time of year that may cause new and unexpected symptoms to come seemingly out of the blue.
Holiday celebrations are typically a time where loved ones gather and reconnect, but there is a dark cloud looming overhead for many. Loss and grief are often triggered at this time because this is a time where you would be with loved ones, but when you can not do so at this special time of year, mental health may decline drastically, even if at any other time of the year you cope well. Simply put, you start to miss people more when you know you would be with them anyway, but now you can’t. Even outside of the triggers of past traumas, the holidays are simply a very stressful and hectic time for everyone, and sometimes that stress can just build up and build up until it can become seemingly too much to handle for many people. All these negative feelings can culminate for anyone, and those that struggle daily with previously existing mental illnesses can have exasperated symptoms.
There is little that can be done to prevent these symptoms from occurring at all, but there are measures that can be taken to minimize the debilitating effects that they have on daily function. Validating and accepting your own feelings is an important first step. When you acknowledge that your feelings are valid, and there is nothing wrong with you, you are practicing a form of self-care that is very important to help get you through any difficult time. You’re not crazy; you’re human and you’re hurting, it’s natural. Not agreeing to everything everyone asks of you is also important. If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it; a good person will understand and won’t take it personally. Keeping your physical body healthy is imperative as well as physical and mental health are directly related. Reach out to your loved ones and support system. There are people that love you and will listen to you and are here to help you in a time of need. If you find that friends and family aren’t enough, or you don’t feel comfortable sharing with them, don’t be afraid to seek professional help if need be. There is no shame in needing additional professional support if need be.