So here we are wrapping up 2011. If you believe the TV commercials, movies and all the rest, celebrating the New Year is the best party of the year, one that everyone wants to attend. But surely not everyone can always be in the frame of mind for a party on December 31. I wondered about those who have to cope with a mental illness and those who care for someone with a mental illness. Surely it can’t be easy for them.
So I posed some questions about this to some Menninger clinicians, and thought I’d share their answers with you. Here they are:
What advice would you give someone currently struggling with a mental illness to help them through New Year’s Eve celebrations?
Thomas E. Ellis, PsyD, ABPP: Keep in mind that most New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time and good intentions, because they are too darned hard and doomed to fail. But here’s one worth considering: To spend a little time each day cultivating kindness and compassion toward yourself. Remember the reverse golden rule: Treat yourself as you would hope to treat others. There are lots of ways of doing this, from meditation that focuses on self-nurturing thoughts to engaging in acts of kindness toward yourself. When was the last time you treated yourself to a funny movie?
Elizabeth C. Cantini, MSN, RN, Professionals in Crisis Program:
- Sometimes a smaller group with warm and close friends can be safer and more rewarding to bring in the New Year.
- Try not to get caught up in the hype and mindset of partying with everyone looking so happy and fulfilled. Everyone has challenges and difficulties to face in life.
- Celebrating New Years can be fun and meaningful with sparkling grape juice and other beverages without ETOH (regardless of what commercials advertise).
- Fun can be within reach while maintaining good judgment and discretion.
- Remember to regulate emotions before, during and after New Year’s.
- Role play before being around friends if social anxiety is an issue.
- Keep in mind that everyone needs friendship and affirmation.
- It is a myth that everyone has to stay up until midnight!
- Call, contact or visit someone less fortunate.
- It’s fun to talk about everyone’s goals and New Year’s resolutions.
Dee Henderson, MSN, RN-BC, Comprehensive Psychiatric and Stabilization Program:
For those struggling with a mental illness, some coping strategies for the New Year’s holiday include:
- Stay close to friends or family that understand.
- Take medications as prescribed.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Relax by listening to favorite music or doing other activities that relax you.
- Make realistic resolutions.
- Allow yourself to grieve losses of this year.
- Don’t dwell on the negative.
- Be gentle with yourself.
Chris B. Webb, CPRP, MT-BC, Rehabilitation Services:
- Refer to your wellness and recovery plan if you have one. If you don’t have one, start one.
- Spend New Year’s Eve with supportive friends and family.
- Spend New Year’s Eve at a place of worship.
- Attend small parties if you are triggered by crowds and loud music/noise.
- Ask how they would like to spend New Year’s Eve that will allow them to enjoy themselves without feeling overwhelmed or triggered.
Frances Fisher, CPRP, MT-BC, Rehabilitation Services: Someone living with a mental illness may view not view the coming of the New Year as a new beginning but rather as just more of the same old struggle. Life is not filled with possibilities; only the hopeless feeling of impossibilities and limitations. These feelings may be exacerbated on a day that is exclusively devoted to the celebration of ringing in this New Year. To this person who is struggling, I would say: Step back from the hype of New Year’s Eve and consider that EVERY day is a new day whether it feels like it or not. Know that recovery from mental illness is real and a possibility for your life.
What advice would you give someone with a friend or family member who has a mental illness to help them through New Year’s Eve?
Chris B. Webb, CPRP, MT-BC:
- Ask them how they would like to celebrate it.
- Ask how they would like to be supported.
- Host a healthy and supportive NYE party with soft drinks, play games, share highlights of the past year or best and worst of the last year and expectations of the New Year.
Dee Henderson, MSN, RN-BC:
For families trying to support a loved one with a mental illness at New Year’s, some strategies include:
- Reach out to those who are alone or vulnerable.
- Encourage honesty in how they are feeling.
- Let them know you truly care about them.
- Support ways of celebrating that are low-key.
- Don’t compare this holiday with previous ones.
- Focus on the positives.
- Allow them to process feelings with you.