Project HELP is an initiative of Woman’s Missionary Union that identifies a critical issue and seeks to raise the level of awareness of that issue and provide practical approaches anyone can implement to open the door for meeting needs and sharing the gospel.
The holiday season is known as a time of gatherings and good cheer. As Christians, we especially feel the desire to be “extra” during this time of year. Extra joyful. Extra generous. Extra excited about the upcoming birth of our Savior.
However, many people express high levels of stress and anxiety around the holidays. And Christians are not immune to these feelings.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says 64% of people say their mental health conditions worsen during the holiday season. And 3 out of 5 Americans feel their mental health is negatively impacted by the holidays.
Feelings of frustration, sadness, fatigue, tension, sense of loss, and loneliness are common this time of year. The lack of time, financial pressure, gift-giving, family gatherings, and extra church services and responsibilities can add a lot of stress to our lives.
So, what can you do when your holidays feel less than jolly?
Remember what really matters. We do not honor Jesus when we buy gifts with money we do not have or spend all our time on parties and shopping. Jesus just needs our love, time, and thankfulness. So, keep Jesus at the center of your focus. Spend quality time with Him and with your loved ones, taking the time to connect with your Savior and with those family and friends that make you feel cherished and safe.
Shower others with kindness. We cannot control the actions of others. But you can be kind to the store staff and reach out to those you love. You can choose to act with kindness regardless of the behavior of others.
Set aside time for self-care. Do things that help you feel more balanced, relaxed, and in control. This may be more quiet time with God, a massage, saying no to a party, a long bath, or a walk. Take the time you need to take care of yourself and your mental health.
Accept your feelings. The holidays can bring a range of emotions. Sometimes those emotions can be contradictory. Give yourself permission and compassion to feel what you feel, without judgment. It's okay to feel happy. It's okay to feel sad. It's okay to feel happy and sad.
Set boundaries. It is okay to say no to an expensive present. Or to a party. Or to limit time with family that you have a complicated relationship with. Knowing what and how much you can give is important. It is okay to say, “no more than this.”
Keep a regular sleep, eating, and exercise schedule. The holiday season can be very disruptive to our normal living patterns. It is important to our mental health to maintain healthy habits.
Learn to accept imperfection. Expectations around the holidays are high. We can become stressed and depressed just by trying to meet them. Things do not need to be perfect to be enjoyed. Imperfection is normal and okay.
- Ask for help. Reaching out to a therapist, trusted friend, pastor, or loved one when you are struggling will help keep your mental health safe during the holidays.
Used by permission. This article was written by Sara Lamkin Consultant for Students and Ministry Involvement, WMU of South Carolina.