Tuesday 19 December 2017

Mental Health over Christmas: Michael

Christmas can be a tough time of year when struggling with a mental illness, notably the pressure to 'happy'. Michael talks about how he looks after his mental health during the christmas holiday period.
- Michael

1. What do you enjoy most about the winter holiday period?

Everyone tends to come home for Christmas so I love catching up with friends and family that I don’t see that much during the year. I also enjoy the bit between Christmas and New Year where it is pretty much universally acceptable not to do much uni work, no matter how many assignments or exams you have to go back to in the new term.

2. What do you find most difficult during the holidays?

I think one of the most difficult things I find about Christmas (as ridiculous as it sounds), is the relentless pressure to HAVE LOTS OF FUN AND BE REALLY HAPPY!!! Everywhere you go, there is an expectation to celebrate Christmas and New Year in a certain way, all with lots of people. It is easy to feel very lonely and inadequate if you can’t live up to this, especially once exposed to all the photos, videos and programmes on social media of people being endlessly happy and seeming to have lots of fun together. If you are finding things quite difficult, this can also make it awkward to reach out for help and support. It can feel like there is no one to talk to, that everyone is too busy or that you will only drag them down. Uni friends might be miles away and most specialist support services are unavailable from home or closed over Christmas.

3. Taking some time out from all the festivities to look after yourself can be really helpful. What do you do to help your mental health during the holidays?

The winter holidays can be a pretty difficult time for students because there is often a lot of uni work (or paid work) to do before you go back. It can be difficult to balance everything and look after yourself at the same time. I find it really important to find time by myself, away from the family, for something other than work (even just listening to music works for me). Having said this, of course spend time with friends and family and talk to people about how you are feeling; Samaritans run a text or email service over Christmas. And I always try to make sure that even though my daily routine is a bit different over the holidays, I still get plenty of sleep and exercise.

4. What present would you give yourself over the holidays?

That I can’t really answer this question perhaps suggests that the present I really need to give myself is greater self-awareness of how to look after myself.

5. To conclude:

The winter holidays can, from my own experience, be a trigger point and a particularly difficult time if you are feeling depressed or alone. Please try to keep an eye out for the signs that someone else might be struggling. Be patient and sensitive if they seem a bit down and try to make yourself available to chat if/when they need it. Even just a smile could be enough to make a big difference.

If you would like to get involved in our Christmas blogging series, you can find all of the details here

"Hi, I'm Michael. I'm currently a prospective PhD student at Durham University and wanted to write for Student Minds about my own experiences of depression, anxiety and university life."

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