Surviving Christmas with mental health problems
Christmas is almost here! The shops are full to bursting of people buying gifts, food and drink. Everyone seems to be sharing their beautiful Christmas trees all over social media, the Christmas songs are now all that can be heard on the radio or in the shops. So this must mean we all become completely happy and full of joy!
In an ideal world yes but this is not always the case.
I have to admit I have always loved Christmas, the idea of it anyway. I do love the lights, the music and now having a little boy it really has made my love of Christmas grow. But despite having a great love of Christmas I have not always had an enjoyable one. Some have been downright awful!
Whether it’s memories of past bad Christmas’s or you’re living through a particularly bad time right now it can be difficult to enjoy the festivities. But you know what – that is OK! I have learnt over the past few years to put certain things in place to, not only be able to get through Christmas, but actually enjoy it too.
Here are few things that help me survive the Christmas period;
- Things don’t have to be perfect! I have always aspired for the perfect Christmas. Being the perfectionist that I am I guess that’s no surprise but I have had to learn a few things since becoming poorly. Firstly there is no such thing as a perfect Christmas and secondly I can ruin my entire Christmas by trying to force my idea of perfection on the day. It’s OK if the veg gets a bit overcooked. It’s OK if the wrapping paper and the tags don’t match. It’s OK to be a little late! Perfection does not equal a happy Christmas.
- Tell someone if you are not feeling great and have a ‘code’. You don’t have to make a huge announcement you can just mention to a trusted family member or friend that you are perhaps struggling. They can then keep a watch on you to ensure things are OK and check that you are not pushing yourself too hard. Also having a little code between two of you might help if things are becoming too much but you are surrounded by people and you can’t get to your trusted person to tell them. I used to have little gestures I would do with my husband if I was becoming overwhelmed and needed to leave but was just to anxious to say anything in front of people. A look and a nod or something like that. Knowing you have this can also make you enjoy things more as you know you have a solid plan in place if things get too much.
- Find a safe space. This is an important one for me. Sometimes the sheer amount of people and noise can be enough to make me feel extremely overwhelmed. In the past I would have forced myself to stay making myself moody, stressed and sometimes even angry. I now take myself away somewhere quiet, it is usually just the bathroom or a bedroom just to give myself time to gather my thoughts and get myself back on track.
- Self care. Yep it’s that self care again! At this time of year a little bit of self care goes a long way. I know it can seem pretty impossible to fit any in with the decorating, shopping, wrapping and cooking but even 10 minutes to sit down quietly with a cuppa and book will work wonders. 5 minutes of mindfulness. A short walk around the block or a bubble bath. Anything that can bring you back to the here and now.
- Give back. Giving back and helping others less fortunate than you is not only a lovely thing to do but it can be a great thing for your mental well being. It’s been proven that doing things for others can boost your mood, happiness and even self esteem. It can be anything too, big or small. You could volunteer, give money or food to charity. Give toys to the local toy appeal or even pop in to see a lonely or elderly neighbour. My son and I have a Kindness advent calendar that we started doing last year (see picture) and we love it! It really does make me feel so good to know that I am helping others.
- Don’t worry, it’ll all be over soon. Sometimes unfortunately you do just have to be around people you don’t like, especially at Christmas time when everyone gets together. You can’t get on with everyone – believe me I know and I know it’s tough. But do try to remember that Christmas really is just a few days long. It’ll be over soon. Don’t let yourself get stressed over those people that probably aren’t worth it anyway and who you don’t have to see again for a while after Christmas period. If it is travelling somewhere difficult then just try to be prepared as you can be. Find yourself that safe space early on. Pack enough medication and have a list of emergency numbers close at hand just in case.
- Focus on gratitude and positivity. A tough one at times, I know depression and anxiety can hang pretty low over these periods making it much easier to see the faults in you and your life and fill you with all the negative feelings. Please do try to dig deep and look at things that have gone well or OK for you this past year and try to focus on something you are grateful for. It could simply be that you are still here. You survived the year! That’s awesome! You’re awesome. Remember that.
The bottom line is that Christmas can be an incredibly difficult time of year with mental health problems making them worse. They might make you feel that it is impossible to get through this but trust me you can!
Celebrate that you’ve fought through another year and survived! Focus on next year being another year you survive and thrive.
Wishing you all a safe and happy Christmas.
Lots of love,