Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers advice for maintaining your mental health.
The lights on the trees glisten through the night in our storybook town on the river. Shoppers crowd the little stores along the main street to use their holiday coupons. Everyone is cheerful and talkative. The atmosphere is jolly. We decorate our house for Chanukah and Christmas, which we celebrate consecutively and jointly. We buy stuff and make plans. It's fun and good. There's spirit around and it's catching.
But what of the disjointed, disrupted, broken families destroyed by abandonment or bitter divorces, in grief from recent death, or hurting due to illness and other forms of disaster? How does it feel to look on to the community spirit and listen to the happy holiday songs? Do these people absorb the sweetness of the season? Do they celebrate with religious renewal? Do they find secular solace in the commercialism and rituals around them? Or do they secretely drown in emtiness, sadness, loneliness and pain behind a fake smile?
The answer depends on the choice someone makes. No matter how hard the circumstances, even biochemical mental illness, there's always still a choice to make the worst of a bad situation or find some hope. Whether someone feels lost and chooses to help out at a homeless shelter, go to Church, sing in a choir, join a group of like-minded people or support group, take a walk and feel at one with nature, play a game or just cry and do nothing is always a choice. Feelings may be beyond one's control but behavior isn't.