The more, the merrier, right? Spending time with loved ones can be the highlight of the holidays for a lot of people. But if you or someone you love is alone for the first holiday season since the death of a loved one, their absence can weigh heavily. This is especially true if a mental health issue is present.
According to a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) study, 64% of people with mental illness say holidays worsen their conditions. How can you help keep your own or others’ spirits bright while honoring a loved one’s memory this holiday season? Try these tips.
Tip #1 - Celebrate their memory.
While a loved one may be missing when you light the menorah or trim the tree, you can keep them with you in spirit. You could:
Bake their favorite holiday cookie to share with friends and neighbors
Light a special luminaria or votive
Donate to their favorite charity
Watch their favorite holiday movie
Whatever makes you feel closer to them is the right choice for you and your family.
Tip #2 - Allow yourself some alone time.
A little quiet time for reflection is beneficial for everyone during the holiday season. But if you are grieving, it is especially important to listen to your body and your mind. Embrace your emotions.
Looking at photos or rereading a favorite book could help you feel closer to your loved one. For others, that might be too painful. In that case, consider spending a relaxing evening with self-care.
Think of alone time as an opportunity to freely express your emotions. Have a good cry, write a poem or dance to a special song. Creative expression can help process your feelings and thoughts in a healthy way.
Tip #3 - Lean into gratitude.
Losing a loved one can be one of life’s most painful experiences. Let yourself grieve. But sometimes counting those blessings can remind you that, despite your loss, you still have many reasons to be joyful.
Plus, research shows that gratitude is good for you. Several studies over the past 10 years have found that a practice of gratitude can reduce stress and improve physical and mental health, according to NAMI.
Tip #4 - Avoid alcohol.
Alcohol is a depressant, so it is best to avoid it altogether when you are feeling down. Now may be a good time to try a seasonal mocktail or sip a soothing cup of tea instead of your favorite adult beverage.
Tip #5 - Take care of yourself.
In addition to cutting out drinking, try not to overindulge in food to soothe your feelings. Eat right, try to get some exercise each day and get enough rest. When you are physically at your best, your mind will be clearer too.
Finally - Ask for help if you need it!
Remember it’s OK to not be OK. Whether you need a friendly ear or do not want to be alone, tell people what you need. And if you need more support, reach out to a mental health provider. MIND 24-7, now serving adults at our Phoenix North-Central location near Metrocenter, is open around the clock during the holidays with licensed mental health clinicians who can see you immediately. Please visit the MIND 24-7 locations page to find other locations.