During one of the worst, collective years this generation has ever seen, it would be nice if we could wrap up a bottle of “Make-It-All-Go-Away” and give it to everyone we know and love. And no, I’m not talking about alcohol. Physical, mental, and relational health have all taken a toll this year. We have the suffocating restrictions of the pandemic, fears—natural or manufactured— about getting sick, election anxieties and anger, grieving the loss of loved ones, unemployment stress, remote learning stress, Zoom fatigue and, well… where is the sanity?! We are a nation in pain. We are a hurting people. The holiday season feels like a strained, bitter proposition for many right now.
The truth is, there are no easy answers. And short of learning some major coping skills, getting outside in whatever capacity possible, and seeing a therapist, there doesn’t seem to be a lot that anyone can do to relieve the pain and disenchantment that hangs over all of us right now. But perhaps we can shift our mindsets just a little bit and think about how we can use this time to relieve the plight of others in very small ways. This holiday season, I propose a national theme of Mental Health Gifting. No one needs a new air fryer, virtual pong or a 6 foot Mandalorian doll that’ll be in next year’s dump pile. We need to be supported in our efforts to be whole, sane, and peaceful during this very isolating time. Here are a few of Pax Family Counseling’s ideas to help spark your own creativity on gifting mental health to the ones you love:
- Childcare. I have to say it. This is the number one relationship stressor on many, many couples and single parents. If you have the ability to offer a parent a date night, please do so. They are suffering. And they’re probably too concerned about “being a burden” on you to ask for help. If you have to wear a mask and bundle up and simply walk their children through some trails to avoid inner spaces, do so. There has got to be some way to make this happen. But truly, the gift of alone time and couple time is one of the very best things you can offer to the people you love. Pair it into a gift certificate and wrap up a bottle of wine or a gift certificate to a restaurant for take out, if you feel the need to wrap up something tangible.
- Weighted Blanket. You can find these at most department stores and online and I would encourage you to make sure it’s washable or to get a cover that fits over it. Weighted blankets are extremely helpful for people who struggle with sleep and they can be a great source of comfort just sitting on the couch for those with anxiety. Traditionally, these have been associated as being for folks with sensory disorders, but more and more everyday people are swearing by them now. They come in different weights and you can find charts online for the proper heaviness for a person’s body type.
- Massage gift certificate. We need to stop thinking of massages as “indulgences” when we are suffering from a lack of healthy touch in our culture at large. Healthy touching has so many health benefits for body and mind.
- Adult coloring books. If you’ve resisted the fad that exploded a couple years ago, maybe rethink that. Or get a small pack of mini canvases and a basic watercolor set. Gifts that encourage artistic expression have no better time to be given than now. You don’t have to be “an artist” to make art. And while simply coloring in something isn’t exactly “art,” it can be extremely soothing.
- Noise-Cancelling Headphones. If you can afford it, you will be giving some lucky, overstimulated person a true slice of solace!
- Light Therapy Lamp. These can be found in all price ranges and are useful for people who suffer from seasonal depression or just find themselves missing the sun! If possible, look for one with a timer so the receiver can safely fall asleep “in the sun…”
- Simple Engraved Jewelry like this, offering a daily reminder of positive affirmation for those who need it.
- Custom mugs along the same lines. If you’re looking to offer positive messages, make sure the design is something beautiful as well.
- A diffuser and essential oils. Whether it’s an electronic diffuser or a simple reed one, the benefits of certain smells can positively impact the brain. This is science. Citruses and peppermint to lift the mood of the room, and lavender, chamomile and tree scents to calm the mood of the room.
- Jar of Positivity. Buy or decorate a beautiful jar. Fill it with many different lovely quotes or your favorite memories of the person. You can find lots of ideas on positive quotes online or for “positivity jars” on Pinterest.
- Gratitude Journal. You can find these all over nowadays too as people are paying attention to the fact that training our minds to cultivate gratitude will literally rewire our brains to have a brighter, healthier appreciation for life. Easy to get personalization on a cover in some cases, too.
- Mindfulness Gift Box. I’m obsessed with the endless variations this idea provides! You can make your own or find one of the lovely ones on Etsy. But the end result should always have the same sort of effect on the recipient: “You matter. You are loved. Take a minute for yourself. We’re going to get through this…”
Listen, life is really, really hard right now. For everyone. What we need is to acknowledge that head-on and honor our collective suffering with intentional living. And during this difficult holiday season, intentional gifting is just one part of that.
Written by: Elizabeth Rose, Licensed Mental Health Counseling Associate