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Getting Through The Holidays With Good Mental Health


Handling the Holidays.

The Holidays are not easy for a lot of us.  For many suddenly being put together with relatives or in-laws or even certain friends, or maybe having no one to be with, all of these combinations plus the memories the holidays evoke and the yearnings of anticipation set us up for a miserable time.

How can we overcome this scenario and have a great time?

Here are are some solutions based on real people.

Sally and Greg and their three kids are a pretty intact family.  However, a few factors seem to interfere with Holiday enjoyment.  Sally's mom always joins them but can aggravate Sally and hurt her feelings with some old criticisms that always seem to flair up. Greg really enjoys his mom and dad and his two brothers but since they all live on the West Coast and Greg and his family are on the East Coast, yearly gatherings are not always possible.

Here are some of the things that Sally and Greg do to make Thanksgiving and the Christmas Holidays work better for them.

1.  They always invite over some people they really like, whether they are close to them the rest of the year or not.  One year they had over a family they always enjoyed chatting with at the swimming pool in the summer.  Another time they had over an older couple they had met in church.

2.  They try to make their guests feel special, including Grandma.  Each of the kids has an assignment.  The youngest, a girl, is to make the guests cards and drawings.  The middle daughter is to make sure the guests are always attended to and to also play the piano on and off for entertainment.  The older boy, into photography, is to take the guest's pictures and make sure the pictures were printed out and put in frames as a gift for them to take home.  For Grandma he is to make sure her picture is taken with all three of the grand kids.

They have found that by combining mom with pleasant strangers and giving the children assignments to help the day work better, that holidays have worked so much better.  Sally's mom rises to the occasion to stay pleasant in the presence of strangers and the kids love showing off.

Here is another typical situation: Beth, single in her late 20's, has fabulous memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  In fact, they are so wonderful that they augment her depression in the present.  She yearns for a husband, a home, maybe a baby or two.  She imagines her own giant tree all lit up, cookie crumbs suggesting that Santa had a snack while he stopped by, and her extended family coming by for a festive dinner.

One change helped Beth's mood and her feelings about herself and her current situation in life.

1. Beth decided to spend her Holiday time at a local shelter.  Last year she cooked and served at a large shelter and loved it.  She was even part of a shelter chorus she helped to form, singing songs on and off all the days she was there.  Her mood was way up on both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  This year because of Hurricane Sandy she will be even more involved with a major shelter.  She has volunteered to organize games and other goodies for the children.  And of course she has found just the right Santa to come and entertain the kids. She is anticipating busy days with no time to worry about herself.

If we look carefully at the above cases we see a theme in common.  When we can move out of ourselves we can truly enjoy the Holidays even if our own lives are less than perfect.  Caring about others always helps us to focus less on the old feelings and memories we may have to leave behind and stay present in the present.

And usually that is the best mental health present we can give ourselves!

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