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Brianna N. Castro of El Centro is a Peer & Family Support Specialist, Certified Crisis Counselor and National Alliance on Mental Illness Connections support group facilitator for NAMI San Diego and Imperial Counties.

GUEST COLUMN: Not So Merry & Bright

While most are in the spirit of the holidays, there are some of us who find it hard to feel jolly this time of year. For those of us living with mental-health conditions and our families, it isn’t always a joyous time.

Then add in a seemingly neverending pandemic and it can feel completely overwhelming.

We are totally into the holiday season and while there are plenty of things to do in comparison to last year when everything was cancelled, some of us are still dealing with exasperated symptoms of mental-health challenges as well as isolation and anxieties about COVID-19.

A National Alliance on Mental Illness study showed that 64 percent of people living with mental-health diagnoses report the holidays make their conditions worse. COVID has only added to that. What is important is that we honor the way we are feeling, so for me that means telling myself that it’s OK that I’m not totally in the spirit as I normally am. If you are feeling like I am, you aren’t alone.

Here are some tips to take care of your mental health this holiday season:

  1. Set Boundaries: These are so helpful especially with the holidays and family stressors.
  2. Seek Out Support: Support groups are especially helpful if you are dealing with loneliness and isolation.
  3. Lots and lots of Self-care.
  4. Be Realistic: Social media can perpetuate the perfect holidays, so remember not all you see is real. There are no perfect holidays or perfect people. Take breaks from social media. It really does help!

Don’t forget your doing the best you can.

Now these are only a few things that may be helpful. We all have our toolboxes of coping skills and mechanisms to get through hard times. One thing I cannot stress enough and that has definitely helped me is support, especially from my peers. The empathy and understanding you get from someone who also lives with mental-health conditions is unmatched. Also, whether you live with a mental-health challenge or not, we all have mental-health issues and we all need support.

Lastly, this time of year is not just about perfect posts, massive amounts of gifts, or forcing ourselves to sacrifice our own mental wellness to satisfy others. Do as much or as little as you want. Celebrate how you see fit. As long as you find joy in it, you’re doing exactly as you should.

Sending lots of love to you this holiday season!


Brianna N. Castro of El Centro is a Peer & Family Support Specialist, Certified Crisis Counselor and National Alliance on Mental Illness Connections support group facilitator for NAMI San Diego and Imperial Counties. Notice the semicolon tattoo in Brianna’s photo; the punctuation mark has become the universal symbol for those who have struggled with and overcome mental-health issues, including anxiety, depression, addiction, thoughts or attempts at suicide, and self-injury.

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