5 'Elf' Inspired Mental Health Lessons
“I am a cotton-headed ninny-muggins!”
During the holidays, I believe thoughts like these more than ever. My depression and anxiety symptoms go up. The holidays are sometimes a comparison season for me. I never feel as though I measure up to whatever bar is being held for me. Some days I have the energy to fight these thoughts and some days I want to distract myself and watch Hallmark movies. When I am able to self-soothe, distract and practice opposite to emotion action, I can re-enter into my world with the people I care about and these thoughts disappear, just for a little bit. I repeat this process over and over again throughout the day, the hour. That’s why I need to sleep, especially during this season. Help me to not oversleep while I’m helping myself fight my symptoms with the tools I have in my toolbox. Let me borrow your tools sometimes. Let’s help each other because I think we all struggle with negative thoughts to some extent — even Buddy did.
“I planned out our whole day: First, we’ll make snow angels for two hours, and then we’ll go ice skating, and then we’ll eat a whole roll of Toll-House cookie dough as fast as we can, and then to finish, we’ll snuggle.”
Please. Plan out my day. Tell me what you expect of me. I don’t like to be surprised because then my anxiety starts to make me dissociate. I don’t want to be in that space in this season. Tell me the ways we are going to try to enjoy winter and short daylight hours together. Tell me who I’m seeing. Then, after you tell me what I should be doing, remember to give me the grace and permission to say no. Also, especially during the holidays, reach out to me. I get stuck. I’m getting less stuck each year because of therapy but I still get stuck. I’m stuck in my head and in my family system. Help pull me out of it and help me have fun.
“I just like to smile; smiling’s my favorite.”
Smiling can be so easy for me and smiling can be so hard for me. I think I need both sides of that to realize when something is worth smiling for. Sometimes my smile means I am faking it because the social norms are telling me to, and sometimes my smile means I’m actually genuinely feeling something positive. Most of the time, smiling is not my favorite but according to Amy Cuddy, “Fake it until you become it,” so Buddy, keep smiling for me on my hard days. I’ll smile for my friends who need it because I know they’ve smiled for me.
“Does somebody need a hug?”
Ask me. Don’t assume I want to hug you. Don’t assume the kids in your family want to hug all of their relatives. Practice consent and let my “no,” and theirs, mean something. It’s OK to ask. Some people have an energy I can’t let into my space. Being in the same space is enough to drive my anxiety up, so please don’t hug me. Please ask and I’ll do my best this year to ask too.
“I love you.”
Say this to the people in your inner circle. Those people you go to when you actually have the energy to reach out. The people who cheer you on. I’m working on these three big, little words. I still can’t say it sometimes. In those cases, remember the five love languages and know we all show love a little differently, but this year — especially this year — make sure people know you love them and that your life would be different if they were not in it. We need each other. Promise.
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Lead photo via Elf Facebook page