Staying Healthy During the Holidays


The holiday season can be a mixed bag for a person living with a psychiatric illness. We all look forward to the holiday joys of spending time with family, attending seasonal parties and even the holiday shopping experiences. But, the holiday season also can bring high stress as people take on too much activity, experience old conflicts with family and friends and experience some old patterns of thinking and emotional states which are less than positive. The person living with a psychiatric illness or a dual diagnosis may find they are unable to cope with the holiday stress. We know that the forthcoming season can trigger a relapse and place the person in a difficult crisis situation.

There are ways to stay mentally healthy during the holiday season. Here are a few ideas:

  • If you are taking medications for a mental health or substance abuse problem, stay on your normal medication schedule.
  • Avoid mixing alcohol and or street drugs with your medication. Although a party may look inviting the results could be disastrous.
  • Get plenty of rest, eat nutritious foods and avoid the holiday cycle of binge eating and/or drinking.
  • Stay “fit” through an exercise program to reduce stress levels and to stay healthy. The natural endorphins produced during exercise will make you feel happier.
  • Get to understand your “triggers” for relapse and avoid those people, events and places which you associate with the problem times in your life.
  • If you are involved in a self-help, recovery or support group, make sure that you attend the scheduled meetings during the holiday season. Don’t make excuses for not attending.
  • Maintain your schedule of individual, group or family therapy appointments. Don’t let your busy schedule cause you to cancel appointments.
  • Do stay involved with family and friends who provide you with support, comfort and a positive atmosphere.
  • Watch your finances. Overspending is a stressor and can be a trigger for the onset of other problems. Remember you can’t spend your way out of the Holiday Blues.
  • Allow your spiritual wellbeing to occur through church and worship activities.
  • Consider volunteering as a way to “give back” to people who are less fortunate than you.
  • Use the magic words: “no”, “no, thank you” and “that’s not for me” to establish healthy and safe boundaries.

If you encounter difficulties, don’t decide to wait until the holidays are over. Seek the help and support you need when facing the holiday season. And, do enjoy what is healthy fun with family and friends.

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