This is the third December that My Brain’s Not Broken has been around, so we’re now at the third time I get to write about mental health around the holidays. The first year I wrote about how mental health does not take time off for the holidays, even if you do. Last year I focused on using that quality time with friends and family to check in and see how your people are doing. Since I don’t want to get repetitive, I’d like to take a different direction, about the anxiety the holidays can bring and what you can about it.
It’s that time of year! The holidays are here, and with it come hopes of fun times spent with family and friends. But that’s not always the case.
The holidays aren’t great for everyone. There are plenty of reasons for why this happens, but what’s important to understand is that it’s normal and that it happens to more people than you think. Whether it’s at work, at home or somewhere else, the holidays can sometimes bring out the worst in us instead of the best. Even if it’s out of our control, if we can recognize this, we’re taking the first step to getting better.
Checking in with your people
I like to check in with my family around the holidays, regardless of whether or not I see them in person. Knowing what a touchy time this can be for my own mental health, I want to make sure everyone on my team is okay. Regardless of how well you think someone is doing, it doesn’t hurt to ask around and see how your loved ones are. Even if it seems like there’s nothing wrong, ask anyway. Often times, those who are hurting the most are also the most insistent that they’re fine (aka the mantra of someone who is not fine).
If someone is upset with you for asking, there are a few ways to handle this. First, you can let them know you’re checking in on everybody, not just a select few. This might put them more at ease and not feel like they’re being targeted. Second, you can tell them you’re just doing what you think everyone needs around the holidays, which is a chance for self-reflection and contemplation. You can tell them that your asking comes from a place of love and care, and only the best intentions.
What should you say if someone’s checking in with you?
Be honest. There’s no need to try to fake your way through the holidays because everyone seems so happy. The holidays aren’t easy for everyone, and if someone such an honest question, they shouldn’t be surprised by an honest answer.
I typically have pretty great holidays with my family, but they don’t go by without at least a few loved ones asking how I’m doing. And I tell them, honestly, how I’m doing. I know they love me either way and they are there to support me. But I get how awkward it can feel to tell someone that you feel like garbage when you’re supposed to be celebrating a holiday. But after a short time that awkwardness goes away, and eventually, it just becomes like any other question you get asked.
If no one checks in with you, check in with yourself
If no one asks you how you’re doing mentally, make sure you ask yourself! It’s important not to forget about your own mental health this time of year while you’re thinking about everything else. You have just as much a right to be mentally healthy as anyone else does, and taking the time to check in with yourself is important and very underrated around the holidays. This should be a time of gratitude, happiness and thankfulness – I hope that it is that for you this holiday season.
It’s a magical time of year, isn’t it? It’s cold outside, the snow is falling (in some places) and you feel content because the holiday season is upon us. It’s a near-perfect picture. Unfortunately for some people, that feeling doesn’t come around this time of year – in fact, they could end up feeling worse.
While the holidays are a wonderful time to be among friends and family, it’s not a wonderful time for mental health. Yes, it can be healing to be among loved ones, and for a lot of us it’s a boost to be around the people we care about. But please take note – you might be on holiday, but your mental health is not.