There is no perfect time to bring up this subject. But this is as good of a time as any.
You would have to be literally living under a rock to ignore it. Mental health challenges in America are increasing at a meteoric rate. Traditionally, the holiday season can be stressful for any American. It’s much worse for those who already have issues.
In this column, I want to do two things. First, we will examine good advice for anyone to adhere to during this season of the year. Secondly, let’s take a look at the tender, loving care needed for those who struggle throughout the year.
Here are the tips for the general public when it comes to avoiding the holiday blues:
- Stick as closely as possible to normal routines.
- Make sure you get adequate sleep and rest.
- Take time for yourself, but don’t isolate yourself. Spend time with supportive and caring people.
- Eat and drink in moderation. The last thing you want to do is turn to alcohol, or drugs, for a boost.
- Get in a little exercise even if you normally don’t. Do the stairs instead of the elevator at work. Park farther than closer at the mall. Take short walks.
- For each day, stay organized by a “to do” list. Outside distractions and extra activities can complicate life. This can help keep it together.
- Set reasonable goals and expectations for holiday activities such as shopping, cooking, entertaining, and partying. Over-planning sets you up for failure.
- Set a budget from the outset – for everything. How much to spend on eating out? How much to spend on entertainment? Gift purchases? Don’t overdo it.
- Carve out some “me too” time. Get away to yourself and listen to music or find other ways to exhale. Relaxation is key to balance during a time of hustle and bustle.
- Never compare what you do or don’t do, to others. If someone you know well is doing way more, getting way more, giving way more, let them do them. You do you. Holiday joy is not a competitive sport.
When we ignore sensibilities, the risk of fatigue, tension, loneliness, sadness, loss, frustration and isolation become real. Just let go and let it flow. Remember this moment will pass and life will return to a closer state of normalcy. Even then, these are good rules to follow to maintain that necessary balance.
And whatever you do, don’t let people make you feel bad for any reason. Sometimes imagination can become the most formidable barrier between our thought process and true peace of mind. Sometimes they – whoever they may be – really aren’t talking about you. And even if “they” are, in the end, what does it matter.
Keep in mind that people who care about you most are those you should care about most.
Resist the temptation to be weighed down in fear during the holiday season. Remember the simplicity of the reality that this too shall pass. Keep constantly at the forefront of your thinking the simple truth that 95 percent of those things that we dreadfully fear never actually come to fruit- ion.
As alluded to earlier, there are those among friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, associates, parishioners and organizational affiliation facing health challenges all year.
If you don’t already know their reality, you can hardly ever tell just by looking. They can be the most attractive, best-dressed, well-educated, articulate, clever, witty, outspoken, creative, and resourceful people in the room. None of those have anything to do with the workings of a troubled mind.
Mental illness takes myriad forms. Bipolar disorders. Depression. Anxiety or panic. Schizophrenia. Excessive phobia. Obsessive, compulsive disorder. Borderline personality disorder. Suicidal or self-harmful behavior. Dissociative disorders. Eating disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychosis. Tourette’s syndrome.
There is not enough space to delve into each. Perhaps at another writing, we can explore the symptoms, the effects, treatments.
For now, the point is to urge one and all to recognize their existence and not to shun those who may be suffering. We need to embrace them on whatever level of familiarity we enjoy with them. Let them know they do not need to hesitate sharing their struggle.
The Black community is particularly in need of addressing mental health among our friends, associates and family members. It does no good to offer some surface explanation for what we know is a deeper issue; no bandage to cover a virtual tumor.
Finally, many African Americans suffer symptoms of these illnesses in silence and secrecy. We need to make more of an effort to encourage people to step forward for what is more often than not a treatable – if not curable – issue.
The point is, African Americans need to embrace this cause with fervor through the holiday season and the year. There is no better time than now to launch a massive movement in our community encouraging heightened awareness, sensitive and necessary care for our mental health.
By Vernon A. Williams
Black Press USA
This article originally appeared in The Chicago Crusader.