We just celebrated Thanksgiving and are heading into the Christmas season. We celebrate the holidays as the most wonderful time of the year! We hear the Christmas music on the radio stations as early as the first of November and while it does put most of us in the Christmas spirit; it isn’t always the happiest time of year for everybody.
We have done shows on Anxiety and Depression and as the statistics unfortunately rise, the Holiday Season is always the hardest for those who do struggle with any type of mental illness, usually more than any other time of the year. Often times, it doesn’t have to be from something that recently happened, but can also be just a variety of things.
We love the holidays and even though I struggle with anxiety, we wanted to share some things we do that help us enjoy them as one who struggles with anxiety and one who is a sister. It can be challenging on both ends and we have always wanted to recognize that not only does the person struggling have a hard time, but the “caretaker” also feels the distress, as well.
I think it’s important first that we recognize our struggle instead of trying to hide it. Hiding it brings on a whole new level of anxiety that will pop up in when you least expect it. When I feel those moments coming on, I try to pray right away and also talk to my sister about it. I know that if I don’t talk, it’ll show in my actions and words and it makes things worse, so I would say to make sure you have that safe place, that person who knows you and you can trust.
Some of the things that bring on that anxiety through the holidays are:
- Social Isolation– You may be dealing with anxiety already and sometimes being in large groups makes you feel even more awkward and anxious. This was always huge for me. Although I thought I was a social person, in bigger groups, I tend to shut down.
- Grief– Grief isn’t always death, but also divorce, broken relationships. Grief is one of the biggest issues people struggle with over the holidays. For me, it’s always a painful reminder of losing my grandmother and aunts around the holiday season. Although God has abundantly blessed me with my sister and family, there’s always that part of me that misses my family I lost. Sometimes if we dwell on that, though, we stop ourselves from fully enjoying all we do have!
There are several reasons we didn’t talk about that cause people to struggle and feel loneliness over the holidays. These are just a couple that we have dealt with.
Everyone is different and there are several ways to cope and even learn to enjoy the holidays, BUT it does take work. We are use to allowing our feelings and emotions to control our joy and peace, but when we fully learn to be wholly dependent on God and His provision first, He will lead us through the next steps.
Psalm 119:50– “In all of my affliction I find great comfort in your promises,
for they have kept me alive!”
1 Peter 5:7– “Pour out all your worries and stress upon him and leave them there, for he always tenderly cares for you.”
Psalm 68:5-6– “To the fatherless he is a father. To the widow he is a champion friend. To the lonely he makes them part of a family…”
Psalm 147:3– “He heals the wounds of every shattered heart.”
Here are a few ways we can learn to enjoy the holidays! Of course, we can’t do any of it without prayer and truly allowing God to come into our hearts and work through the process of healing with us. This can be grief, loss, abandonment, neglect, fear – whatever the root cause of your anxiety or loneliness is – it has to be dealt with first with God.
- Cling to the Promises of God
We don’t always feel like it. I know for myself, there are times when loneliness, anxiety and despair seem too great to even think about praying. God knows this and He doesn’t hold that against us. When you push through that flesh and just say the name of Jesus, He will lead the path to continue! He will give you the strength you need to forge through any pain or discomfort.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10– “My grace is always more than enough for you and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me. So I’m not defeated by my weakness, but delighted! For when I feel my weakness and endure mistreatment—when I’m surrounded with troubles on every side and face persecution because of my love for Christ—I am made yet stronger. For my weakness becomes a portal to God’s power.”
John 14:18– “I promise that I will never leave you helpless or abandon you as orphans—I will come back to you!”
Phil. 4:6-7– “Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].”
- Confide in Someone
I thank God for my sister and what we have! It’s because of her we have been able to take a different stance when it comes to mental illness and realizing that there is another heart involved that is just as important and that is of the “caretaker.” Now, my sister isn’t necessarily my “caretaker,” but that simply refers to those that are close to someone who struggles with mental illness.
Especially during the holidays, my sister can tell when things start to get a little hard for me and it is so much easier that she is loyal and knows my heart and has learned how to deal with it and we have kind of learned together what works for us and how to get through those moments. If you have someone who you trust and know is out for your best interest and praying for you, then please reach out!! We cannot go through this alone and I know at times, it feels burdensome to tell someone, but when it’s that one God gives you – He will make it work. It can be a spouse, sibling, friend, or even therapist. But I do believe we need someone to talk to. God didn’t call us to go through life alone or the struggles.
1 Thess. 5:11 – “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
1 Corinthians 15:33, Proverbs 13:20– “The friends we choose can change our lives forever. If we choose the wrong type of friend, their influence can corrupt us and cause irreparable damage.”
Proverbs 17:17 – “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Proverbs 18:24 – “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Ecc. 4:9-12– “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
John 15:13– “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
A lot of mental illness, depression, anxiety is heightened with bad eating and sleeping habits. Eating a healthy diet as much as possible and getting the right amount of sleep, drinking water – all things that can help aid in a healthier mood. God tells us many times throughout scripture that taking care of our bodies are important to Him because we house His spirit!
1 Corinthians 6:19-20– “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is within you, whom you have [received as a gift] from God, and that you are not your own [property]? You were bought with a price [you were actually purchased with the precious blood of Jesus and made His own]. So then, honor and glorify God with your body.
Romans 12:1– “Therefore I urge you brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship.’
1 Corinthans 9:27– “But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service].”
4. Start New Traditions and Volunteer
I think a lot of people who struggle with anxiety are not good with change. When we get use to something being a certain way, it is very difficult for us to let go and believe that the new will be as good or better than the old. Starting new traditions that trade our past can be a huge deal most don’t understand. The new may be great, better than before and we may even see that!! But, it still is difficult to embrace letting go of what was comfortable and “normal” to us.
One way to help overcome this is to start new traditions. This doesn’t mean completely having to let go of the old, but even meshing some old traditions with new ones and embracing something you started! You may have lost loved ones, but there are plenty of people in your circle, in your Church or around your city that could also use some love over the holidays, who also may be hurting.
Bake cookies for the neighbors, leave thankful notes on their doors, walk their dogs or offer to pick up groceries for them. Have holiday dinners with friends or extended family or invite others over and host them! There are plenty of ways to give and when we take the focus off of us, soon you will realize God has been healing your heart!
Matthew 25:35– “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me [with help and ministering care]; I was in prison, and you came to Me [ignoring personal danger].’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You as a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it for Me.’”
1 John 3:17– “But whoever has the world’s goods (adequate resources), and sees his brother in need, but has no compassion for him, how does the love of God live in him? Little children (believers, dear ones), let us not love [merely in theory] with word or with tongue [giving lip service to compassion], but in action and in truth [in practice and in sincerity, because practical acts of love are more than words].
5. Align your expectations with Reality
We talked last show about how change is something that can be quite difficult for people struggling with anxiety. We understand routine and become accustomed to that, to trust it, so when something changes – it begins a whole new area of unknown that is scary. Recognizing that fear is the root of that and meditating on scriptures that denounce fear will help!
2 Timothy 1:7– “ For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Recognize that your feelings, fear and emotions are not reality and meditate on scriptures that transform your mind.
Romans 12:2– And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Understand that the reality of what you had before may not be your reality now. People may have come and gone, lifestyles may have changed! BUT God is still in control and He desires a prosperous life for you! Change is good! Trust me, I DO NOT embrace change like I should myself and I am preaching to the choir here.
Get yourself use to the new way, the new traditions, the new people. Once you let go and allow the newness to kick in, it can be better than before! Don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself. Don’t try to do everything or see everyone. Be real and honest about your boundaries, limits and how much you can handle at a time. It will take time to adjust, but with allowing God to hold your hand and taking it one step at a time, soon you will see your healing at hand.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new,” Socrates
The holidays are a beautiful time and should be shared with ones we love. Dealing with anxiety can be very real and we are not trying to diminish that. What we are saying is that all hope is in Him and if you can divert your whole attention and submit your heart to Him, He will meet all of your needs and you can enjoy this season more than ever!
“You cannot change what’s going on around you until you change what’s going on within you,” Anonymous