So here we are again - fully encroached in the festivities of December and Christmas time. We know it’s not a very profound thing to say, but seriously how did the end of the year come around again so quickly?!
Covid restrictions were very much a big deal last year, spoiling the fun and adding upset to all our planned celebrations. This year, Covid still isn’t far from the headlines, or our heads, but we hope that you can all enjoy more freedom and frivolities this time around.
But pandemic planning aside, Christmas isn’t always a time for joy and celebration. If we’re hosting, it might become a seating plan nightmare as we try to keep squabbling relatives apart and attempt to fit ten around a table for six. (I’ve done that, my garden chairs and long hallway came in handy.)
Or we might not have ten people to invite, or even two. Loneliness at Christmas is a very real problem for many, made worse by TV adverts full of happy, bustling families all sitting round a table teeming with home cooked food.
Money problems might play a part too, and a table teeming with home cooked food could be so far removed from reality that it causes upset and resentment.
Heartbreak and grief from missing loved ones, either due to distance, circumstance, break ups or bereavement are all also very real and exacerbated at Christmas time.
Even without any external event to cause upset, Christmas can simply be a time of high expectation and pressure, causing stress and anxiety. So here’s our tips on being kind to your mental health this Christmas.
Try Managing Your Own Expectations
Easier said than done perhaps, but try to let go of what you think Christmas should be and think about how you want it to be. Lose the pretence of the glossy ads with clean, beaming, happy families glowing with happiness.
Instead indulge yourself in the intricacies and -isms of your own family life. Think about what it is that glues you all together and celebrate that, rather than someone else’s ideal.
Comparing your Christmas to a Victorian Christmas card when in reality it’s more like an afternoon in Eastenders’ the Queen Vic, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Having high expectations is a normal standard for many of us, but lowering our expectations can often mean that we don’t fall as far. So keep them low and give yourself a break if things aren’t ‘perfect’.
Once you’re at peace with how it’s going to be yourself, then the expectations of others may then fall into place more easily. Be Open and Honest, and Find the Tribe that Matches Your Vibe Ok, so we can’t choose our family, or our in-laws, but leading up to the day, we can surround ourselves with like minded people that are feeling exactly the same way about the pressures and stresses of Christmas.
It might be another parent from the school playground who we’ve never really spoken to before, or a long standing friend. If you’re honest about the feeling of dread that might surround you at Christmas time, then it won’t take long before people start saying, oh yes, yes yes yes, me too.
Set up a WhatsApp group, call it something like “HELP it’s Christmas” and use it to vent or offer advice, even on the big day itself.
Take a Break, a Serious Break
When the tough gets going, and you feel yourself getting emotional, anxious or nearing an outburst, take ten.
Take ten minutes or ten breaths, whichever you have time for, and breathe. Step outside if you can. If you have longer, pull on your coat and go for a walk. Close your eyes, take stock and tell yourself you’ve got this. Because you most certainly have.
Be gentle with yourself. If you feel anxious or angry or any other emotion, that’s ok. This time of year is one of the most stressful, you’re bound to be feeling a little out of sorts if you have things other than the perfect Christmas dinner on your mind.
Seeking Help Isn’t a Sign of Weakness
If you’re really struggling with your thoughts and feelings or you think you might be experiencing anxiety or depression, or it’s all too much and it’s affecting your quality of life, it’s honestly ok and it’s ok to speak to someone.
The Samaritans can be easily reached on the telephone and can offer a valuable and supportive ear and space for you to express how you feel. Your GP can also provide helpful advice and can refer you to a specialist for talking therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT. They can also discuss the possibility of medications including antidepressants with you.
If you’d rather not speak to a professional, find a trustworthy and non judgemental friend, colleague, family member or other acquaintance to speak to. You may be amazed how much better you feel after airing how you’re feeling.
Remember, Christmas doesn’t have to come with bells on it or be adorned with tinsel and all the trimmings. Your Christmas looks exactly how you want it.
So have a peaceful, kind and mind merry one, whatever that means to you.
From all of us here at Sönd, Happy Christmas. You’ve got this.
Referenceshttps://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2017/dec/20/festive-stress-why-the-christmas-season-can-be-anything-but-merry https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-cope-when-you-are-alone-at-christmas-3024301 https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/christmas-and-mental-health/christmas-coping-tips/ https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/talk-us-phone/
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.