For many people the holidays can be a mirage of joy and peace. The bustle of the season does not shimmer with happiness, instead it just highlights their daily struggle with metal illness. From where they sit while “everyone” else enjoys themselves, they are stuck dealing with the day to day struggle of staying mentally and emotionally balanced. It’s as if their challenges stand as an obstacle to the joy “everyone” else is experiencing.

For me having a realistic view of the holidays can combat the longing and jealousy I often feel about the “everybody” elses of the world.  The holidays give me the opportunity to be realistic about my expectations of both myself and others. Being realistic allows room for me to savor the good moments I am lucky enough to enjoy.

First of all, remember that just because the calendar and seasons change our lives actually go on as usual.  There are still bills to be paid, medications to take and illnesses to manage. Life and mental illness doesn’t take a break just because its Christmas.  Setting expectation that the season will lessen or eradicate  our pre-existing challenges is to set yourself up for disappointment.

Secondly, planning ahead can help.  For some, making a list of celebratory events and choosing intentionally which invitations to accept aids in keeping the calendar overcrowded and stress at a minimum.  I like to write gifts and recipients down in my journal so I can remember what I am doing, clearing my mind of worrying or having to remember all the details.  A little bit of planning goes a long way towards allowing the brain to rest and not obsess.

Third, embrace your humanity! You are one person who has a human body and defined amount of hours during the day.  Pushing yourself beyond reasonable healthy limits will only lessen your ability to maintain your mental and emotional health. Think of it as a pie. How much of that pie are you able to give to your family, errands, and celebrations? More importantly how much of that pie are you able to give to yourself to keep your energy reserves up so you can serve and bless your family and friends.

Fourth, enjoy! Be thankful for and relish the moments that are good. Life is a mixed bag of good and bad.  However, mental illness can cloud the reality that there are actually moments in every day that can be appreciated.  Being thankful for good physical health, the sunrise, a warm home, pets, friends or family can change a downward trajectory to one that is more positive.

Finally, celebrate the season in a way that honors the way you were created.  You are special, even with all your bumps and bruises.  So live the season in ways that honor God, your body and all your unique characteristics.  Celebrate you without comparing your experiences with others. You were created like nobody else in the world, so live like nobody else.

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