The Holidays and Mental Health

For many people, the holiday season is a special, heartwarming time of happiness and celebration. For others, the holiday season is a dreadful time of mourning, grieving, and struggling with mental health.

The dark outdoor lighting that fall and winter bring, along with the gloominess of the cold and icy snow days can really put a damper on people’s mental state. People tend to associate these weather conditions with deep sadness.

Loneliness is very prevalent during the holidays. According to the holidays are extremely hard for people who live alone or don’t have close family. If a person doesn’t have a strong support system, this is emphasized during the winter season, given that Christmas is a time of being surrounded by the people you love and are closest to.

I think it is important to make sure everyone that you know has a place to go for the holidays. If you know a person who spends Christmas Eve alone, invite them to your family gathering. If you know a person who’s been suffering or feeling lonely, reach out to them to let them know they have someone to turn to if needed. A kind act like this holds a lot of power. You have the ability to positively impact someone’s mental health this season, and that is so important.

People who have lost loved ones tend to think about it more during the holidays. The memories of past holidays with those loved ones build up and can cause great grief. Always remember to check up on people who are in this situation and make them feel extra included and loved so they have less time to think about the pain that their mind is putting them through.

After my cousin passed away a few years ago, my uncle found himself somewhat dreading the holiday season because it reminded him so much of his son, Patrick. Patrick used to love Christmas time, and he would always play the guitar for the whole family on Christmas Eve while me and my sister sang along.

We continue to include his memory in each holiday season. On Christmas Eve we go around the room recalling fun memories with Patrick, and sometimes we even sing his favorite songs. I find that us doing this really uplifts my uncle and warms his heart. He no longer dreads the season, but instead he knows it will be a time of rejoicing and honoring Patrick’s memory.

The key to deal with someone who’s been through a loss is not to tiptoe around them. It’s okay to acknowledge who they’ve lost and bring up their name in a good light. It shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing to mention.

If we fail to reminisce on the memories of the ones we’ve lost, it doesn’t do them justice, and it is as if they never existed.

An article by TheSchoolofLife states that the people we’ve lost wouldn’t want us to feel pain when we think of them, but instead “they would hope for us to remember that behind, and prior to, this pain, there was joy, tenderness, fascination, insight, loyalty and moments of sheer fun.”

That being said, if the loss is recent or still fresh in the mind of someone, they may truly not want to discuss the matter. It might hurt them too much. In that case, just be a shoulder to cry on for the person. Be a good distraction for them during the holidays.

It is important to not be judgmental or confused by the people around you who are sad during the fall and winter season. Everyone is different and dealing with their own personal mental health problems. For some, the holidays just aren’t hopeful and jolly.

I encourage you to be extra kind and compassionate this holiday season. For people who have lost loved ones due to COVID or gained anxiety/depression during the pandemic, this season could be the hardest one yet. Try to look out for the people around you, and be as present, open, and understanding as you can if they do decide to open up to you about any personal issues they’ve had.

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