Curtains of light adorn shop fronts, cinnamon and nutmeg penetrate your nostrils as you pass through another Christmas market, Carol singers are happily tapping doors in your street, but you, well you’re struggling to keep your festive cheer at full spectrum.
Not because you don’t love Christmas, not because you’re a Scrooge, but because you suffer with your mental health and Christmas is a mental overload. On a sensory level all the extra noise and imagery that comes with Christmas alone, can be enough to irritate the coolest of customers. But when you suffer a mental illness such as anxiety or depression it can be doubly challenging this time of year. Anxiety can creep up on you for no reason at all, and with Christmas being so ‘extra’ these days can trigger all sorts of emotions. Everywhere you turn people are uploading their insta worthy trees and putting up the cutest of Christmas pics and even if you’re yourself doing so, it can still feel like a bit of a peeing contest, which may set off some anxiety in the more vulnerable among us.
the economic climate means the poor are getting poorer and what better a time to seemingly highlight these facts than at Christmas, when your kids are coming home with lists as long as their arms for Santa.
To me, it’s glaringly obvious why this time of year can be testing for the best of us. It might hold some emotional triggers too, first Christmas without a loved one, or a bad memory resurfacing.
Keeping up with Christmas parties and trying to please your auntie Joan with your annual visit, can be so, draining!
So what can you do about it? Well, I don’t profess to have answers a plenty where looking after your mental health is concerned, but I do have some experience. What I first do is look at all the invitations to festivities I’ve received and pick out the ones I really want to attend, I then write them on the calendar. I don’t bunch any too close together, ensuring there’s a day or so in between to make sure I can recuperate and don’t get too run down from burning the candle at both ends. I then make a promise to myself to not take on any additional party commitments, enjoy the ones you have planned and save the other days for things you need to do like your Christmas shopping. No matter how bad FOMO gets DO NOT try and squeeze in more than you can handle, everyone knows too much wine is bad for an anxious mind.
Buy presents only for the people you really want to, this saves both money and resentment. Christmas is a time to give and why should you be guilted in to buying for people you don’t even like.
If you know Christmas is particularly triggering for you, try and make sure you allow yourself time to process your feelings. Keeping busy is great, but sometimes you also need some you time, so book a massage and buy yourself a Christmas present. If you can’t afford this, treat yourself to a walk and a takeaway coffee it’s just as good.
Making time to get outdoors is a great endorphins booster and we all need a few more of those, especially in winter.
Remember it’s just a day! Even some of the shops stay open, so you really don’t need to run around trying to get everything perfect when it’s no different to yesterday.
Spend time with people who make you feel better about yourself, people who are positive, and have enough Christmas cheer to go around. It really does help to be in the company of people who naturally uplift your mood. And if you do need to spend time with people who aren’t so uplifting, keep it brief and then give yourself a pat on the back for getting through it.
Why not – do something for charity. I am a huge believer in that doing good makes you feel good and sometimes that’s all we need to give us a boost and what better feeling than knowing you’re helping someone who really needs it.
And finally…. give yourself a break. Don’t berate yourself if you’re not feeling 100% don’t allow yourself to feel guilt for needing to cancel when you aren’t well. You are the only person looking out for your mental well being, and that needs to stay a priority, even during the season of good will.
You can be a good person and still say no. You can be a good person and still take time for yourself. Try and remember this, it will help.