By Samantha Bishop (she/her)
1. Make sure to take time for yourself- this is a super helpful method of battling overwhelming emotions, anxiety and overstimulation. The hustle and bustle can get a bit much over the Christmas period so focus on your breathing in a quiet place, if possible, to check in with and ground yourself.
Take time away from social media- ensure you’re spending time away from social media this Christmas because people and influencers will inevitably post all about their ‘perfect’ Christmas. But the thing is, that is their highlights, and it is important to remember they portray a tiny portion of their life. The reality is they will have low points too. Everyone is human and taking small breaks away from social media can remind us that the picture perfect Christmas is not reality for most people, and it is healthy and normal to have down days.
It is okay to not be okay!!!!! Although a lot of people think Christmas is the best time of the year, it is a really difficult time for others. Struggles with mental health seem to go against the whole point of Christmas (with all the happiness, lights and optimism). Its vital to give yourself time, care and an extra bit of love over this holiday period.
Talk to whoever you spend Christmas with about your mental health worries, make sure they understand that despite it being a holiday these problems for you do not go away. You still live with your health issues every day, even if that day is Christmas. Make appropriate adjustments like a break, a lie in or some quiet time.
Take each day as it comes- if one day you have the energy to call a friend or shop for present go for it! But if the next day you are struggling, that is perfectly normal. Try not to get upset if you can’t make it to special Christmas plans, there will always be other times for it! Make sure that you care for your health the same or even more than you would around other times of the year.
Get outside- I find it particularly helpful to get outdoors when it is light (very limited this time of year). The combination of fresh air and natural light can help improve your mood and give you that little boost to help you through the rest of the day. If you can’t manage a proper walk, open a window, go onto a balcony or into your garden.
Bring a sense of normality- The pressure to be festive and cheerful can get a bit much so having some time during the day to have nothing Christmassy going on is helpful. Pause the Christmas music, turn off any festive TV and just be present, remembering that life hasn’t changed just because its nearing December 25th.
Reduce the worries- Christmas is one day of the year but there can be a lot of worries that surround it. Financial, family and health worries are extremely common and if they are bothering you there are ways to combat them. You can find a close friend or relative to talk to or even write your thoughts out, explaining each worry in detail. Decide whether this worry is simply an anxious thought or whether there is something you can do about it. Slow, thought making processes can reduce your worries and even help you realise that the worries don’t mean anything.
Keep in contact- Despite Christmas usually being a time for friends and family, this year it may be a little different. So, to combat loneliness stay in touch with your loved ones. Facetime, zoom and texts are a great way to do this and can be as relaxed as you want! Also, if you have come home from University it can be good to make an extra effort to stay close to your uni friends. This can help you retain a sense of normality whilst also making your return in January easier.
Keep your traditions- if you’re spending Christmas away from family for the first time this year or you’re just not feeling yourself then keeping those traditions you cherish may ground you. The tradition doesn’t need to be fancy, expensive or even from your childhood. It just needs to be something that has brought you joy in past years that you can use as a fun experience to remember the simple happier side of Christmas.
Remember that Christmas is just one day, and you shouldn’t sacrifice your mental health for it. Whether you love or dread it, make sure that you plan for your mental health, taking breaks, calling friends and taking that little extra care of yourselves.
(Originally published 19/12/20)