“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” as the song goes, but while it is a truly magical time for many, there’s a lot of people who find this perhaps the hardest time of the year. While you’ll see many people posting gift guides, outfit ideas and recipes – something I also am partial to writing about – this post is going to be focusing on something I think isn’t talked enough about during the festive season; how to look after your mental health at Christmas.
We often get excited for Christmas and see it through rose tinted glasses; the time off work and school, the gift giving, the parties, the food, but when you take a step back and look at it all, it can actually be quite a hard time of year. Between financial struggles, broken homes, not having many people to share the cheer with, ongoing grief from a lost loved one or the existential crisis of how yet another year has passed before our very eyes, the yuletide celebration can have quite the negative impact on people. Mental health charity, Papyrus, warns that suicide is the leading cause of young deaths in the UK and that more than 30 young people could take their lives over Christmas.
As someone who has dealt with mental health practically my entire life, I am victim to my mental health deteriorating around December. It’s not that I hate Christmas, because I truly love the concept, but it does take a toll on my wellbeing for various reasons. Looking back, I can clearly remember struggling for many years now and often sleeping for a good portion of Christmas Day, only to be awake when needed. No, I’m not saying I’ve attempted to take my own life, but mental health deteriorating is always the start of someone heading the point of no return and so it is vital to take care of yourself, even when it’s a busy and demanding time period. Here are some ways you can look after your own mental health at Christmas.
Quality over quantity
This rule can be applied to various situations. First of all, gifts. Don’t put yourself in a financial struggle you know will be too difficult to cope with to please others. I’ve done this and really set myself back in terms of mental wellbeing. I love to please my family and Christmas would always be the time of year I’d try to show them my love and gratitude by getting them these amazing gifts (as in plural, not one per person) that would truly wow them on the big day. But the truth is, your recipient would be happy with a small and thoughtful gesture with you happy and healthy rather than given flashy and expensive gifts while you’re coping with the stress and poor health dealing with the aftermath. Last year, I bought my cousin a Pusheen diary which she really loved. Pusheen is one of her favourite characters and the diary came into great use for her studies and appointments. She really loved it and it was inexpensive.
Another way this can be applied is when planning your events. Parties, meals, family visits can quickly fill up your calendar and sometimes it can just be too much. Look at all the invites you have and realistically work out how many you’ll be able to attend. Then arrange in order of priority which you can attend and which you can give a miss. It’s better to attend a few and be in a good headspace than to attend too many and make the end of the year a struggle.
Have a support system in place
If possible, try and make sure you’re in contact with people who know you quite well and/or can be a supportive person when you need it. Whether that’s via social media or in person, it can help to have someone to talk to on the days you aren’t feeling too great. I’m in a few group chats which are quite active so I know that I can always either share an issue and be supported or just escape and talk about something completely different to cheer me up. Sometimes even just a chat for a few minutes can really put you in a better mindset.
If you’re struggling to find people you can let your guard down with or feel it’s too much to talk to someone you know, remember there are charities and support lines you can reach out to. SANE, Samaritans, Mind, Papyrus and Rethink are just some in the UK. If you’re reading this from outside the UK, visit befrienders.org and search for your country. The website pulls up various hotlines from where you are living.
Create your own safe space
Sometimes, it’s important to escape from the outside world. Try and make somewhere like your bedroom or a study or anywhere you can go a safe space. I’ve stopped decorating my bedroom for Christmas because sometimes it can be too overwhelming for me. I love to sometimes escape to my room and listen to an audiobook, watch Netflix, binge on YouTube or even write. Make that a place you can go and unwind but also try to keep somewhat occupied with a light activity so intrusive thoughts are kept at bay.
Don’t give into the pressures of social media
This is something I am so guilty of. I often see peers on Instagram and Facebook capturing their best lives on social media and it makes me feel like I need to live up to that expectation, that I have to show off the best moments of my life and I should be having continuous amazing things happening on a constant, but the truth is that’s just not how it works. We only show off the best parts of our lives on social media because that’s what we want to remember and want to be proud of. Your worth and success is not measured by how many likes you get on posts and social media has a hard grasp on us all, but sometimes it’s good to log out or pay less attention to how the comparison of someone’s glorified good days to your everyday.
Know when it’s time to get professional help
If you feel like everything is a constant struggle which you feel is too hard to face, it may be time to try and seek professional help. Book an appointment with your GP and speak to them about how you’re feeling. Let them know everything that’s been happening and they can help you put a plan in place; whether that is counselling, cognitive therapy or even medication. It can be hard to ask for help, especially on your own, so perhaps ask someone such as a friend or family member to accompany you to the appointment.
I hope that these tips help you cope with the festive period and remember; you shouldn’t have to suffer, especially not alone.
How do you look after your mental health at Christmas?
Jazz is a Disney, tea and pop culture enthusiast with a passion for blogging. Also a proud introvert.