All is calm, all is bright: Managing your mental health at Christmastime
By Jessica Smith, LMFT, BC-TMH
Christmas lights are shining in the streets, holiday music is on the radio, and there are joyous celebration ads on television. It appears that everyone is happy this time of the year.
Maybe you are enjoying all the sights and sounds of Christmas, feeling happy and hopeful. Maybe it’s a sad time for you because you miss a loved one or are feeling disappointed. You could also be feeling all of these emotions. And that’s OK. It’s more important to understand them and give yourself some grace. Here are a few helpful tips:
Take time to listen to your feelings
Try taking a small amount of time out of your day, even just 5-10 minutes, to sit, be still and notice your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. You can even do this while driving to work, folding laundry, cleaning the dishes. As you spend more time thinking about your mental attitude, identifying your emotions, and noticing how your body feels, you make a strong impact on your own personal relationship with yourself. At first, it may feel foreign and perhaps overwhelming; but just like making a new friend, spending time and showing care serves to strengthen the relationship. Self-compassion can be giving yourself permission to take a break, telling yourself that it is okay to have a certain thought or feeling, or creating a boundary with a person/people that are not healthy for you. This practice of showing compassion to yourself cultivates feelings of inner peace.
Recognize how you cope with feelings
As self-awareness increases, you can understand how you have been coping with feelings and become intentional of managing them in the future. You may find that your primary methods have been effective in the short term, but are causing more harm down the road. Examples of unhealthy coping skills include suppressing emotions, telling yourself that you should not feel that way, beginning alcohol or drug use, or abusing alcohol or drugs. Some signs that you are not effectively coping with feelings include having a sense of numbness, becoming easily irritated, increased anger, and decreased stress tolerance. If you begin to notice these signs, give yourself credit for being able and willing to gain perspective by being honest with yourself.
Manage healthy coping skills
The next step is to resume healthy coping skills or learn some new ones. It is critical that you are able to express what you are experiencing. This can occur through praying, writing, talking to loved ones, or meeting with a therapist. As you are able to express your feelings, it helps your brain physically process them and decreases the emotional intensity. It is also helpful to find “restful” moments throughout the day, even as little as five minutes, to just be still and free of daily distractions from others and technology. Physical activity helps to decrease stress and increase healthy “feel good” neurotransmitters in our brain.
Your opportunity to grow
This year has provided more unexpected opportunities for growth. It is understandable to have many, and often mixed, feelings when we are challenged or stretched, as many of us have been this year. As you increase awareness of how and what you are feeling, you can tend to these feelings in a compassionate, healthy manner using some of the steps above.
It is also critical to understand that while emotions are an important part of who we are as human beings, it is not spiritually healthy to be driven by emotion. We can pay attention to emotions, then balance what we feel with what we know to be true. As Christians, we KNOW that Biblical truth helps us when our emotions are overpowering. We encourage our clients to ground themselves in truths such as,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:14
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16
“Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.” – Psalm 27:3
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” – 1 John 3:16
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” – I John 4:18
A strong Christian counselor will meet you where you are in your faith and healing journey, to help you apply therapeutic techniques and the truth of God’s Word together. This is the best approach to handling emotion for both your mental health and your spiritual health.
Christian Family Solutions offers a wide range of helpful resources from our team of professional counselors. You can trust Christian Family Solutions for effective counseling, coping skills, and mental health treatment. We have the unique ability to blend these evidence-based therapy methods with Christian faith principles for increased spiritual strength and impact. You’ll find more information here on our website.
Jessica Smith, LMFT, BC-TMH serves as a licensed marriage/family therapist and dual diagnosis treatment director for Christian Family Solutions in Mankato, MN. For more information on our Mankato clinic, and dual diagnosis program, visit https://christianfamilysolutions.org/locations/mankato/