Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mental Health and The Holidays - Mental Health Awareness Retreat

Mental Health and The Holidays

For many the holidays are a fun time of gathering and laughing. But for some, it can be a time of worry, anxiety, pain, depression, and isolation. 

I hope these tips help you and your family have a great holiday. Remember that it is not the quantity of things but the quality, that makes things worth it.

Not too long ago I wrote in regards to Psychosis, Stress and the Holidays. Feel free to read the post. Here are some additional tips to other mental health illnesses and the holidays. 

Tips For Any Mental Health Illnesses And Disorders and the Holidays:

Instead of a big get together have a smaller get together. 

Plan for small gatherings with small amount of people. This way you don't feel overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious. You can also let your family members know that you don't feel at ease with big crowds, if you feel comfortable telling them. It helps them prepare better in order to not overwhelm you and know your limits.

Plan for a safe space if you go out, that you can be able to escape to. 

Safe spaces can be allowing yourself to step outside for a breather, going into a bathroom or a bedroom. You can also bring a laptop with you, if that makes you feel safe and once your feeling anxious (for example) you can go to another room and use your laptop. Feel free to stay in your safe space for as long as you need and/or until you are ready to engage again with others. If don't feel like engaging with others again after you had gone into your safe space, it is alright to say your farewells and go back home. 

For Family members and friends... don't rush your loved one to engage. Allow them the time they need . To let them know you care and are there for them, offer them something to drink or eat, or some warm, kind words such as "how are you doing?, Would you like to talk? Would you like to see something I did?" after about 30 minutes or so. Don't just ignore your loved one, that only hurts more and isolates them further.

Bring something that helps you ground.

A laptop, a book, a piece of cloth, a rock, your phone... whatever helps you ground and feel safe.

Watch what you eat and drink.

Sugar, high salts, alcohol and drugs can make your mental health symptoms/disorder worse or trigger them.

If you cant make it out the door, don't feel bad. 

I know, I know, you say "Josh how can I not feel bad?! I missed a day with those I love the most" I've been there. But you have two choices. Either your going to feel down and get depressed and loose hope or your going to say "I will not let you win" pat yourself in the back and say "its ok, you didn't make it today! but we will try again tomorrow or next year" your choice. I personally choose number two. Its ok to feel down. But don't allow it to defeat you!!! 
For Family members and friends.... If your loved one didn't make it through the door, bring dinner to them and/or gifts. Ask the person who is facing a difficult time where they would like for you to leave these given things as they may not want to bond closely with you due to their symptoms. Give them space and time but don't just leave them out. Respect their wants and wishes but always include them.

For those of you with the mental illness/disorder and the symptoms, take baby steps. Don't beat yourself up, remember that you are healing and recovering. You are wonderful! and just because you did not do something this year, it doesn't mean you won't be able to next year. Take your time and respect your inner self. 

Tips for Eating Disorders and the Holidays:

Focus on other activities besides food.

Focus on games, singing carols, opening gifts, talking to others, dancing and so forth.

Try to eat before the gathering at your pace.

Once you are at the gathering you may feel obligated to eat or over eat. Eating prior to the gathering allows you to control how you eat and go at your pace. It will also help you have control over your food selections and size portions at the gathering.

Don't Skip Meals.

This will also allow you control over eating and not get so hungry for the gathering where you might feel you lose control. 

Watch the alcohol.

Alcohol can increase the chances of overeating and binge eating.

Keep yourself busy after meal time.

Guilt, binging, and other negative feelings usually happen after eating a meal. Keep yourself busy such as dancing, talking to others, playing a game after a meal to distract your mind. 

Switch Subjects when other people talk about food.

Talk about something else

If you struggled with an eating disorder this holiday and feel like you failed, don't beat yourself up. 

Remember that you are on the road to recovery and that it takes time and baby steps to heal.

Tips for Autism and the Holidays:

Set a safe place to go to.

Prepare for yourself or your family member with autism a safe space to go to in advance when feeling overwhelmed and anxious. The holidays can be overstimulating. It is alright to walk away from social activities. You can lower the lights, play soft music, use the tight-squeeze hug technique, and whatever other coping skills that helps you or your loved one relax.

Make sure to have favorite foods.

Many people with autism have issues with food textures. Make sure to prepare yourself or your loved one the food that is loved and enjoyed.

Know how much noise and activity can be tolerated.

There are situations that can be avoided to not trigger over stimulation such as not being in places with loud music or too many people speaking at once. Know your limits or those of your loved ones and plan ahead to avoid such triggers.

Help others understand and Prepare them.

It is alright to let other family members and friends know if you or your loved one doesn't like to be hugged or touched as well as other triggers. This helps people know their boundaries.

Open gifts through out the day or multiple days.

Opening gifts all at once can be overwhelming for some people with autism or they may find an interest in only one gift that they opened. For this reason, consider taking breaks in between gifts.

It is alright to not attend any gatherings.

If you feel it is overwhelming and triggering to attend gatherings, it is alright to just not attend. 

Tips for Depression and the Holidays:

Acknowledge your feelings. 

It is alright to cry and express your feelings. You don't have to force yourself to be happy and feel joy just because it's the holiday season.

You are not alone, Reach out.

If you are feeling depressed, suicidal, lonely, sad, isolated or anything else, feel free to reach out and call someone or a hotline. There are many people who care and can be of help and support for you. 

Here are some hotlines you can reach out to: Hotlines

Find other ways to celebrate.

You don't have to go to gatherings in order to celebrate with others. You can text people via phone, you can use social networks, skype, and other programs to help connect with your loved ones and other people. Doing this can  help you feel less alone and depressed.

Family and Friends, if your loved one can't join you due to their depression, don't forget to bring them a plate of food, gifts or anything else you wish for them to have. Just because they don't join you it doesn't mean they want to be left completely alone.


Volunteering can help you feel better about yourself and uplift your mood. Find a place where you would like to give of yourself such as a shelter, soup kitchen, hospital and animal rescue shelters. 

Go for a walk or listen to positive music/movies.

Do things that will make you feel better.

It is alright to not celebrate at all.

Remember that you are healing. You may have not have celebrated this year but it doesn't mean you won't next year. Love yourself regardless <3

Tips for Alcoholism and Drugs and the Holidays:

Distract yourself.

Get away from the situation that might tempt you to pick up a drink or drugs and do something else. Engage in games, talking to others, dance, or any other kind of activity.

Talk to someone who is supportive whether is a friend or hotline.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or that you just need support, don't be afraid to call someone. Talking it out can help.

Avoid isolation.

Join other people you trust and support you, where you feel safe. You can even do this via social networks, joining chat rooms to speak with others. 

Plan to reward yourself for your achievement.

Gift yourself something if you achieve not drinking or using drugs. For example, buy yourself a video game you have been wanting because you accomplished your goal, or some flowers, candy, food, a day at a spa, whatever you want.

You can use techniques such meditation, mindfulness, and affirmations.

These tools can help some people ground.

Think of consequences.

Think of how you will feel the day after you drink and the impact you will create for yourself and others.

Replace the drinking with sweet food or drinks.

Instead of using drugs or drinking you can eat candy or sweets.

Fight the urge.

Imagine winning this battle and that you are stronger than this urge. Think of how you will feel after you give into the urge. 

Leave a scene.

If you don't feel safe or if you feel people around you are being pushy with drinking and drugs you can always leave.

If you drink or do drugs don't beat yourself up.

Remember that you are on the road to recovery and that your failures doesn't define you. Tomorrow will be a new day where you can try again. Don't give up on your fight =]

Tips for Alzheimer's/Dementia and the Holidays:

Don't just push aside those with the illness because they don't remember or might feel frustrated, instead include them in activities.

Sing songs that you shared prior to Alzheimer's symptoms or go through old photo albums and pictures. Build on past memories.

Allow the person with Alzheimer's to join you in preparations.

Have them share with you in preparing meals, wrapping gifts, decorating the table and other activities. Just be careful with lights as this may trigger confusion in a person with dementia or make them scared.

If you are the person with Alzheimer's in the early stages and still remember things...Make memories and record them.

Have your loved ones take pictures and record the memories this holiday. This can be later on used to help ground you somewhat from dementia.

Maintain a normal routine. 

For someone with Alzheimer's, having sudden big changes can lead to confusion and frustration. Try to keep a normal routine, planning rest and break times in between. 

Take a break if you or your loved one becomes overwhelmed.

Step away and practice relaxation breathing if things become too overwhelming. 

Use post it, notepads, a diary, a calendar and other tools to help remember things. 

Keep noise and stimulation down.

A calm and quiet environment is usually best for someone with Alzheimer.

Try to celebrate in the most familiar settings. 

A change of environment, even visits, can cause anxiety for many people with Alzheimer's. 

Keep visitors to a minimum.

It can be overwhelming for someone with Alzheimer's to see many faces especially when they can't remember who the people are. It can even be scary for them to see strangers. For this reason try to keep familiar faces around and visitors who they may not know, to only two or three people a day.

Keep visits scheduled. 

As the disease progresses, people with Alzheimer's tire out easily. Take a look at the time of the day your loved one is most alert and awake. They will enjoy more company in those hours. 

Remember to live in the now.

Yesterday has passed and we are not able to gain it back and tomorrow is not certain therefore enjoy today =]

Tips for Agoraphobia and the Holidays:

You may not feel alright leaving your house but there are other ways to connect to your loved ones 

Such as using skype, social media and texting.

✯ Look at Tips For Any Mental Health Illnesses and the Holidays for further tips.

Happy Holidays Everyone =] I hope these small tips help in some ways to better celebrate the holidays. Feel free to email me at Joshuanbanx@yahoo.com, if you would like more tips in regards to other mental health issues you might not see here.

***LEGAL DISCLAIMER: the information provided is not intended to replace any professional help. Discretion is advised. I am not a professional nor pertaining to act as such. The information given was gather from personal experience and educational resources.

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