Schizophrenia at Christmas Can Be Happy Without Anxiety
Christmas anxiety and depression are real. Struggling to cope with mental health during the holidays is more common than you think. The festive season is often accompanied by joyous advertisements, beautiful decorations and everything positive. Many look forward to gatherings with family and friends with wonderful food. Warm and deep conversations with loved ones are important as well.
Unfortunately, for many of us, managing schizophrenia at Christmas is difficult and stressful. In a 2014 survey by the National Alliance of Mental Health, 64% of people living with mental illness said that their condition worsens during this time of the year.
YouGov UK ran another survey in 2021 regarding this matter. One out of five has been reported to experience anxiety or depression during Christmas. The group surveyed have not been specifically said to have any prior mental health issues.
Yet, Christmas does bring lots of negativity.
Why Do People With Schizophrenia Struggle During Christmas?
Schizophrenia robs the sense of joy, creates anxiety and causes paranoia especially when we need to be in a crowd of people. Trying to make a conversation with people around us could be overwhelming.
Auditory or visual hallucinations make it tough for us to be present. We will constantly be afraid to look different in front of others.
Therefore, we will try our very best to be a part of the Christmas celebrations. The goal is to fit into the crowd. To be normal again. These feelings may affect us adversely and make us feel isolated. It may affect our self-esteem and pride.
Choose Your Way of Celebration
Let’s get it out of the way, it’s totally fine to be alone if that’s what you prefer. The anxiety can be overwhelming. However, it’s important to understand where the source of the anxiety. Could it be due to the number of people or unknown factors such as space?
Once identified, you can create your boundaries. Scale the celebration down if the group is too large. Spend time with people who you feel comfortable with.
Ensure that there is space for you to retreat if things get out of hand. I like bringing my own sound-cancelling headphones with my selection of music to calm me down. Just find ways to deal with it.
All I need is the fact that I’ll always have a way to move away for safety. That gives me a sense of security.
Set Viable Expectations
Schizophrenia does make us grieve the “could have” situations. We wish that we could be out there just like others, enjoying life without caring about all the symptoms.
Well, I do believe that we are still able to enjoy life according to our capacity. Christmas celebrations can come in different forms. It could be dinner with your immediate family, a Zoom call with your closest friends or a quiet time with your beloved ones. So pick what feels best for you.
Besides setting expectations for yourself, involve others by telling them in advance. Explain to them what might trigger your psychosis and the support you need if it happens.
That way, you don’t need to feel afraid that you’ll be spoiling someone else’s day in the event you need to excuse yourself. Use the opportunity to calm down and prep yourself.
Focus on What Gives You Joy
Be selective and always choose what makes you happy. Begin with writing down a list of your version of Christmas. A balance of simple joys like wrapping presents for others, drinking a cup of warm beverage beside the fireplace or even hanging up little presents in socks can improve your festive mood.
Sharing your hobby with the family during celebrations could be another idea. If you like photography or drawing, you can get them to be a part of the activity.
Doing what you like will evoke positive feelings. That will give you the strength to navigate through the negative moments.
Choose Your Company
Difficult relationships should never be the focus as they can jeopardize your holiday moods. Avoid human relationships that are toxic or too difficult to handle. Focus on the joys of meaningful conversations to build deep relationships.
A friend once said, “If the person doesn’t bring me joy, or money, then this person doesn’t deserve my time”. He identified what he could gain from the relationships built. It’s his way of saying that his time is worthy of good companionship.
Learning how to build boundaries by saying no to things that make you feel uncomfortable. You need to always prioritize your mental health before others. This is what you deserve.
Reach Out for Support
It’s never a burden to reach out to others. Your loved ones will appreciate the fact that you think of them during difficult times. I know, you may think or feel otherwise. Trust me, they want to know.
Talking about what you feel is often hard. It’s even harder when it’s your own mental health. Reaching out doesn’t mean that you’re weak. Neither are you spoiling the holiday joy of others.
Ask for a moment to share your fears, anxiety and feelings before you join any holiday celebrations. Perhaps, a middle ground can be found.
Remember, burdens shared are burdens halved.
Talk About Schizophrenia
Christmas is not about shying away from your mental health issues. Putting up a strong front is mentally taxing and may even make things worse for you.
Share your ups and downs dealing with schizophrenia. You’ll be surprised that many aren’t aware of this particular mental health problem. In addition, depression or anxiety are often mentioned but not schizophrenia. If you are comfortable with it, speak about it.
Others can also learn ways to assist you when needed. You may encourage them to be more patient and understanding about schizophrenia. Moreover, doing so not only helps in mental health awareness but aids in strengthening the bond between one another.
Let’s Make Christmas Joyful
Christmas is all about understanding, giving, sharing and loving.
My wish for all of us Schizo Warriors is to have peaceful days ahead as we usher in the new year. Have goals that can further motivate us to go further. Keep progressing & strengthening ourselves. We can do this!