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Holidays Are Not Merry For All

While most people get excited, an almost high if you will, around this time of year, there are many people that don’t see this time of year a merry. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), people with mental illnesses see a 64% increase of symptoms, of those, 38% suffer from depression and anxiety. Most say the reason is because of the additional stress the holidays bring. The pressures to be in the work ‘secret Santa’, the presents you feel obligated to buy for friends and family, the parties that you politely attend but wish you hadn’t or the festivities you weren’t invited to and wished you were, the family or friend who passed away and this is the first holiday without them. The list can go on. Let’s now add Seasonal Affective Disorder where symptoms increase when there is less sunlight. Mood disorders are not something people can ‘shake off’. Phrases like, “It’s not that bad”, “It’s Christmas, don’t be sad”, “Don’t be a downer” or “Cheer up” certainly don’t help.

The stigma of mental health is still quite prevalent and prevents people from sharing that part of themselves with others. Mood disorders are more common than you think. A person does not necessarily need to be on medication for a mood disorder, as it depends on the severity. People who have an anxiety disorder that is usually well managed can find themselves struggling during the holidays.

Here are some tips to help someone who is struggling:

  • If someone declines an invite, do not ask them why.

  • If someone wasn’t invited to a gathering, consider opting out and being with them.

  • Don’t pressure them to buy gifts or partake in Secret Santas.

  • Don’t use catch phrases as posted above.

  • Don’t tell them what activities cheer you up.

  • Be an active listener.

  • Be available for them.

  • Suggest a quiet activity you can do with them (make popcorn and watch a movie).

Being mindful of those who don’t enjoy the holidays the way you think they should. Not everyone is merry around the holidays.

Next week: Giving the Gift of Your Writing

Until next time…

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