Getting ready for Christmas is stressful for anybody, but can be very overwhelming if you’re struggling with mental illness. It can trigger depression, or give you anxiety attacks and even panic attacks. There are gifts to buy, family coming into town, family get together, and parties. It is expected to be a happy time of year, but when you’re depressed, it’s hard to find happiness. How do you take care of your illness and prepare for the holiday? How do you go shopping without being overwhelmed?

Here are a few tips to help you prepare and survive the Christmas chaos:

  • Budget your money for gifts and your bills. Don’t buy lavish, expensive gifts. It’s not about how much you spend. You may find it comforting to make your own gifts. Homemade gifts have so much more meaning and can be therapeutic. Make sure your everyday bills are paid first before you spend it on presents. Give yourself a limit on how much you spend.


  • Don’t let the chaos of stores stress you out. Stores are extremely busy this time of year and overwhelming. If you find the atmosphere too much to handle, take deep breaths, keep focused on what you need, and spend as little time as possible in the craziness. Keep calm. Have a list of what you want to buy, get it, and leave once it’s paid for. Spending extra time in the store may increase your anxiety and become very stressful. If the chaos is too much, shop on-line.


  • Take care of yourself. Despite all the preparations for Christmas, remember you come first. Don’t let the expectations of being happy, of finding money among paying bills for presents, and the craziness take control of you. Do relaxation techniques, take your medications, fight your negative thoughts, and do your regular self-care methods you do all year around. You come first. Nurture yourself. If you need alone time, then spend some time at a quiet place or at home, but make sure you are taking care of your emotional needs while you’re alone.


  • Avoid things that make you feel uncomfortable. Don’t go to that party just because you think everyone expects you to. If you’re feeling too down or overwhelmed to go, then say no. If spending time with your family means getting into fights or becoming depressed, then tell them you’re not up to it. If sitting alone at home deepens your sadness, then find a friend to spend time with, Skype a long distance family member, or call someone close.


  • Look at the reason for the celebration. If no matter how hard you try you can’t enjoy the holiday, look to God for help and remember the true meaning of the holiday. It’s not about gifts, get togethers, and decorations; it’s about the birth of Jesus. Let God’s gift to us bring some light into your soul. Pray to him for guidance through the holidays. Go to regular and special church service. He’s the only one who can help you reach the light.


  It’s hard to be happy during holidays if your soul is filled with darkness, but it’s important to take care of yourself. Taking steps to help get through the holidays is important. You can’t erase what you feel inside, but you can strive to reach for the light. If you’re in recovery don’t let the season drag you into sadness. Take care of yourself first and take the necessary steps to stay in the light. Remember to stay positive.

   I’m taking the steps I need to keep myself in recovery. There are down days, but I work hard to rise above them. I take each day one at a time. When I do get stressed and overwhelmed, I take extra time to do what I need to help myself through. Because of this, I dance in the light of God’s glory.


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