For people living with mental illness, the holidays can be extra challenging. The holiday season may cause even those who are usually healthy to experience feelings of loneliness or lack of fulfillment. That’s why it’s important for friends and family members to feel empowered to offer support. We’ve rounded up five strategies to help:
Touch Base Regularly
Checking in and staying connected with your loved ones on a regular basis is always helpful but can be particularly important during the holiday season. Consider scheduling a virtual coffee date, sending a quick text with a motivational message, making a call to see how their day is going or stopping by their place to wave hello and catch up (from a distance!). Even the quickest conversation could make all the difference.
Whenever and however you decide to touch base with your loved one, be an active listener. Allow them to open up to you and be there for them in a nonjudgmental way. When appropriate, respond and reflect back on what they have said. Don’t feel like you need to offer advice or resources. Instead, show them that you care enough to listen, validate their feelings and respect what they have to say.
Suggest Stress-Relieving Activities
Once a person feels that he or she has been heard, it can be easier to offer encouragement and information. Ask how you can help or offer to join them in doing a fun activity. Bake some holiday desserts together, make a few holiday crafts, play some board games and lose yourself in something lighthearted and fun. You could even go out and get some fresh air while taking a nice stroll outside to see some holiday decorations.
Don’t Place Unnecessary Pressure & Respect Boundaries
When connecting with your loved one during the holiday season, let them know that it’s okay to decline your offer. Don’t pressure them to do go out or stay out later if they don’t feel comfortable. And if they do decline, don’t take that as a reason to stop inviting them to future outings. Be patient and continue to gently encourage their presence. Also, stay mindful about where you invite them. If you know crowds make them feel anxious, avoid places where there may be a lot of people. If they are in early recovery, find gatherings where drinks won’t be present.
Encourage Professional Help
It’s hard to watch someone you care about struggle with mental health, especially when you believe they could benefit from professional help. Be mindful of when and where you have this sensitive conversation, always use non-stigmatizing language and offer meaningful support. Let them know how important your relationship with them is to you and how it could benefit from their seeking therapy. If the first professional they see isn’t the best match, encourage them to keep looking.