I know it’s sad, but for a lot of people (myself included), mental health issues can get a lot worse over the holiday season. This is due to the darker, longer nights, the bad weather, the stress of preparation and the family members who may or may not get a little too drunk and decide to say the wrong thing. For the past 4 or 5 years, I have really struggle at Christmas, especially on the day itself. For me, I think it is the pressure you see in the media and in society that you need to be happy and jolly all day and have an amazing time on this one day every year, and I cannot control whether I am having a good day or a bad day, and I find myself getting overly stressed about things I have no control over at all. This year, I am planning on trying my best to tame my mental health so I can have a more relaxing experience on Christmas day and the festivities surrounding it, and I wanted to share my tips with you.
There is no one set way Christmas should be celebrated
My first tip is to remember that every family celebrates Christmas differently. Growing up, I always thought that games, laughter and a party atmosphere were mandatory and that my family weren’t doing it right. In my house, we start early, have a lavish breakfast, open gifts and spend quality time together. When my Nan comes over we’ll have nibbles and chat; it’s all incredibly relaxed, and there’s only ever 5 of us around the table, which is just enough. We eat food, drink alcohol, and yes we may play a game or two, but nothing lasts for hours. Then we’ll settle down and watch a movie. To me, this is a perfect Christmas. It’s not what you’re led to believe is an exciting Christmas, a magic day if you will, but it’s how we like to do it, and there’s no pressure to do it in any other way.
If you need to, it is okay to take some time to yourself
Christmas is about being together as a family unit (whether this is your given or chosen family), but sometimes the pressure of entertaining can become too much (even if it is just one person) and it is more than okay to take an hour or so to yourself to reflect on your thoughts and relax. Last year, I got a little overwhelmed and took some time alone to do my hair and makeup, I got dressed and spent some time looking through social media. I felt so much better taking myself out of the situation for a while to gather my thoughts than I would have exploding and taking my feelings out on those around me, causing an atmosphere for the rest of the day. Fortunately, my family are mega understanding of my situation and know that if I need time away that I cannot be disturbed. If your family or loved ones do not understand this as much, it might be worth having a chat to them before the big day.
Christmas isn’t all about the presents
Presents are great, but they aren’t the be all and end all. In fact, if you are stressed about the amount of money you are spending on presents, have you stepped back to think of the sentimental value of what you are planning to buy? Sometimes the best and most meaningful presents do not cost a lot at all, but actually demonstrating that you have listened to someone throughout the year and gifting something they really need is much better than splashing out on gifts they will not remember you bought a few months down the line. The presents I remember most are the ones where I feel someone has really taken the time to select something special for me. Last year I had become a little all over the place and I was forgetting calls I had booked in at work, doctors appointments and family birthdays, so my mum gifted me a lovely diary that fit into most of my handbags that I could carry around with me to ensure I did not forget anything. I know it wasn’t extravagant but it meant so much to me that she had really thought about what I needed, and not what would just look like she had spent a lot of money.
Not everything will go to plan
Okay, so you might at a little later than planned. Someone may not be able to get to your house on time. You may be one chair down around the table. None of this really matters and you will end up laughing about it months down the line. It is always worth coming to terms with the fact that something is bound to go a little bit awry on Christmas day, if you do, it’s likely you’ll stress less when it comes to the 25th and take everything with a pinch of salt, even if only slightly. I am a self-confessed control freak and I need to know what is going on at all time, even though I don’t plan Christmas in my house! I keep having to tell myself that the world will not end if something doesn’t go the way that is planned, and sometimes the spontaneity of our Christmases makes for better memories down the line. Keep telling yourself it will be okay no matter what happens, and when the inevitable does eventually happen, the impact will hopefully be cushioned, even if only slightly.
What do you do over the holidays to ensure your mental health stays intact? Please feel free to share any of your own tips in the comments below!