Protecting Your Mental Health During Holidays

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Participants during Coffee Bar Session. Photo: Julius Rasat

December is mostly referred to as mwezi ya sherehe (party month) but not too many due to financial status, family status or not a priority. This week’s #CoffeeBarTuesday focused on how we can protect our mental health during this festive season. During December, many people travel upcountry to share the festive season with their families, friends and neighbors. However, so much has happened this year affecting our lives such as losing our loved ones, losing jobs, lost friends, families broken up amongst others. With all these happenings, it clearly shows that the majority of us will be mentally unstable not unless we act.  

Our discussion started with understanding how many of us will be traveling up country for this festive season and how that would make you feel if you’re going anywhere. Majority of the participants pointed out that they are not going upcountry due to reasons that are out of their control. Reports done showed that 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse.

One of the participants pointed out that he lost his grandma early this year, she was the backbone of the family and through her they were able to meet every end of the year. But with her passing this year, no one is talking about going up the country since there’s no one to visit. Another participant shared that after his father’s death, they are no longer planning to have anything since their father was more of a convener of the family. Other reasons pointed out include the hike price of transport, all family members are in Nairobi and not being able to cater for everyone’s needs especially for the firstborns.

“My grandma was the reason why we all went to upcountry, after she passed away, we have no plans of having any get together meetings as of now.” Participant Said

Connecting these experiences and childhood, most families used to cook chapatis and others would slaughter a goat or chicken and then there are those who didn’t even have a meal for the day. This affected the majority of us to a point we stopped visiting our neighbors. During times of cheeriness, not feeling as enthusiastic as others can be stigmatizing. Not being able to match the same level as your friends, family or colleagues can really affect your mental state resulting in you finding a coping mechanism which at the end affects your mental state. We have seen people becoming drunkards day in and day out during this festive season and it could be they are fighting something that we don’t know about. Being left out is something that is not easy to comprehend and this is where you start abusing drugs and substance or you become an introvert.

“As someone who my family looks up to, I am not in a position to spend time with my family due to financial constraints. I am expected to cater for my sisters and brothers transport to upcountry which is currently at KShs 3000 per person.” Participant said

With our focus being how we can protect our mental state, we pointed out a few ways that would help in protecting your mental health. Here are some suggestions on how you can reduce stress and maintain good mental health during this festive season. However, it’s good to note that this may not work on everyone and it’s not professional advice.

Don’t Compare Yourself with anyone.

It is easy to compare your situation to others’ especially if you have lost a loved one or a job one which increases feelings of loneliness or sadness. If you see people having fun and you don’t have the same energy, then it’s okay to leave the place and get to do something else that you love such as walking, reading a book, sleeping, watching movies or documentaries.

Know And Understand Your Limitations.

It’s always advisable to accept your limitations and be patient with others too. You should prioritize the most important activities or schedule activities for after the holidays: It is important to learn how to say “no” when you are overwhelmed by social obligations and demands made on you by others. With the bus fare hike, you shouldn’t force yourself to travel if you don’t have money. Remember that there’s life after the festive season. 

Try Not To Feel Alone or Isolated

It’s true that many of us have friends and family to spend time with during the holiday season, but it’s also possible to become isolated during this time. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones for other reasons, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s okay to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. You can also take advantage of other ways to connect such calling, texting, emailing and social media. 

Have a Budget

With so much happening, always have a budget. This will help in controlling your expenses and also protects your mental state. Before you do food shopping or kuchafua meza, decide how much money you can afford to spend, then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with gifts. Don’t overspend trying to impress your family or friends, remember life continues after the festive season.

Be Careful With Your Actions

Keeping in mind that everyone is not like you, try to accept family members and friends as they are. If someone gets upset or distressed when something goes wrong, be accommodating and understanding. Keep grievances off until a more appropriate time for discussion. Most likely, they are also experiencing holiday stress and depression. However, if you feel their actions are affecting your mental state, it’s okay to leave and focus on something else constructive.

Seeking Spiritual Help

If you are a spiritual person, this would also be a good time to spend time in your church or reading a Bible. Majority stating that spending time in church makes them feel a higher sense of purpose, peace, hope and meaning. Spirituality can help you deal with stress by giving you a sense of peace.

Regardless of your plans, its important to share with your family, friends and colleagues on your plans.

This festive season, be kind to yourself and put your mental and physical well-being first. Don’t let holidays become something draining you mentally. Instead, take steps that will protect you and others. Also, avoid excessive tobacco, alcohol and drug use. Happy Holidays and See you on Tuesday!


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