Although Christmas is known as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, but some sufferers of anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses wouldn’t necessarily agree. The festive period comes with many pressures, from being obliged to attend social gatherings, to uncomfortably awkward conversations with those you only see once a year, to being tempted to binge, to regretful debt.
Growing up I loved the buzz and bustle of Christmas. Seeing all my favourite family members that I only saw a few times a year, spending days in the same fluffy pyjamas, waking up at 5am to jump on my parent’s bed filled with the excitement of opening presents that I’d spent hours flicking through Argos catalogues circling. But as I reached my teens and my anxiety from my PTSD started to kick in, it soon became the holiday I feared.
This year marks my 5th year on medication, and my 5th year of my forever-feeling long journey to recovery. So, from someone who suffers with a variety of mental health illnesses and struggles, I’ve put together some of my top tips for surviving the Christmas period.
· Don’t compare
Try not to think about what your other friend’s Christmases are like, or the fact that yours isn’t like how it’s pictured in Love Actually. Not everything is as perfect as you see, so don’t pressure yourself to live up to those traditions. Everyone’s experiences are different, and don’t forget that the majority of people will only be talking/posting about the parts that they want you to know about.
· Use your support system
Like in most difficult times, don’t be afraid to lean on your support system. Make sure you have plans to meet with those you’d consider trustworthy and close, whether it’s online, over the phone, or for a cup of tea. Also consider bringing along someone from your support system when attending an event with new/outside the trust circle, such as a work party, as you’ll feel much more comfortable and safer.
· Do something a little different
Volunteering your time doing something like helping at a local shelter, soup kitchen or charity shop will give you that bit of fulfilment you may need, as well as distracting you from your day-to-day stress and giving you that bit of escape from your home life that you may need.
· Identify& prepare for triggers
Remember what and/or who triggers you and try to avoid them. If it’s too awkward to completely avoid, put some plans in place that you know will help and comfort you when it comes to something triggering.Have a safety word or gesture with people you trust that notifies them that you just need some time or space, avoid specific people/events, wear non-restricting clothes, etc.
Christmas is known as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, but some sufferers of anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses wouldn’t necessarily agree
· Don’t be pressured
As hard as it is to resist pressure from those we love, sometimes it is necessary to protect ourselves. Don’t overbook yourself with lots of events, parties, and social occasions/drinks. Remember, it’s okay to say no and very important to have some time to yourself when you need it. Don’t stay longer than you want to please anyone but yourself, you don’t owe anyone out of your support group an explanation, and those inside will understand. Don’t dress a certain way to “fit in”, you’ll just feel uncomfortable and be panicking about how you look. Don’t stress about finding the ‘perfect gift’, it's the gesture that matters.
· Shop online
By shopping online, not only will you be saving yourself the stress of being in a pushy crowd, hours of traffic and finding the right parking spot, but you’ll also be able to plan and stick to a budget better.
· Go outside
I can absolutely understand the ‘can’t get out of bed’ feeling, and if you absolutely need to, stay there, no guilt needed about that! However, one of the best things I’ve found for helping my anxiety/depression around Christmas time is going for a walk in the daytime. Not only will you be getting some small exercise, but the daylight has a massive impact on your mood. It’ll also be a time to get out and distract yourself from your norm, giving the opportunity to clear your mind.
· Make time for self-care
Prioritise your routine. Try not to stay out or wake up too late, avoid cancelling regular appointments for one-offs, stick to what makes you comfortable and never forget about self-care. Do some meditation, have a bubble bath, try some yoga, or if binging a bunch of Christmas films is your self-care, do that! Whatever works to keep you relaxed, prioritise it. And, if you are on medication, and you routine has changed a little, DON’T forget to take it!
· Try not to overindulge
As tempting as it is (especially for myself) to eat a whole box of after eights, try not to. It’s important to remember that too much sugar and caffeine can have a huge negative impact on mood, and you won’t feel it until it’s too late. The same goes for drinking alcohol, know your limit, and stay hydrated by drinking water.
It's going to be ok, we're wishing you a Happy Christmas from the pack at MBD, and we are open during the following times at Christmas if you need to chat:
Christmas Eve (Friday) - 6pm to 9pm
Christmas Day (Saturday) - Closed
Boxing Day (Sunday) - Closed
Bank Holiday Monday - Closed
Extra Bank Holiday (Tuesday) - Closed
Wednesday 29th Dec - 6pm to 9pm
Thursday 30th Dec - 6pm to 9pm
New Years Eve (Friday) - Closed
New Years Day (Saturday) - Closed
Sunday 2nd Jan - Closed
Bank Holiday Monday 3rd Jan - Closed
Tuesday 4th January - Normal Hours