Saturday 22 December 2018

Not everyone is excited for Christmas, and that's okay

Becky writes about the struggles the festive period can bring and how we can help ourselves during this time
- Becky

It’s that time of year again when everyone seems joyful. It’s a time to celebrate the end of another year surrounded by family and friends, with a glass in hand and laughter filling the air. 

Except, for some of us, it’s not. I normally love Christmas – I’ll be dying to put up the Christmas decorations, too excited to sleep the night before and love any excuse to catch up with family and friends. This year, though, my mental health has taken a battering, and I’m currently recovering from a severe episode of anxiety and depression. I don’t know how I’m going to be when I wake up each morning, so perhaps unsurprisingly; I’m currently not looking forward to Christmas.

The pressure to be joyful, lack of routine, social expectations: the list goes on of all the factors weighing on my mind. And while support systems like counsellors, personal tutors, and other key workers may take time off over Christmas, mental health difficulties don’t. Even during a ‘holiday,’ we cannot let go of things that look after our mental health. Here are some tips you might find useful:

• Don’t pretend to be joyful if you’re not. It can be challenging to be honest at the best of times, let alone when there is such a pressure to be joyful. But, please be honest with yourselves and those around you. If you can’t talk to those around you, or your usual support is on a break, remember you can talk to Samaritans 24/7, 365 days a year (116 123). 

Know your limits and take time out. Take a break from everyone to just breathe. Do something that helps you relax – take a bath, listen to music, go for a walk, or enjoy your favourite film. It can be incredibly difficult to say ‘no’ to things to look after yourself, but remember, you can’t pour from an empty glass.

Get into a routine. If you’re anything like me, a routine is vital to support my mental health. When the structure of University life goes out the window, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy mind. It might help to write a plan for the Christmas period, including everything from family gatherings to medical appointments. Around that, you could plan in some time to study, time for you to relax, or time to shop for Christmas presents. Knowing what we are doing each day can be hugely comforting. 

• Switch off social media. Social comparisons can be detrimental to our mental health. If we are struggling, it can be really easy to forget that there’s always a story behind a photo or status that we can’t see. Everyone looks so happy and like everything is going just right for them. Don’t compare – you don’t know what they’re going through. 

• Get enough sleep. Without the structure of normal life, it can be really easy to fall out of a sleep routine. Added to which, social gatherings often go on late into the evening, so we are bound to sleep at different times to normal. But, sleep hygiene is important, so make sure you allow yourself to lie in, get an early night, or nap during the day.

• Everything in moderation. Know your limits and don’t go beyond them, with regards to food and drink. It may leave us feeling guilty and low, or in the case of alcohol in particular, in may increase the severity of some mental health conditions. Have fun, but be aware of the after effects.

• Keep a check on medication. If you’re on medication, plan ahead. There are different opening times over the holiday period so make sure you have everything you need in advance. 

Remember, it’s okay not to be looking forward to this holiday period. You are not alone. Christmas is only one day, and it will come round again. You can get through this. Do what you need to do to look after yourself.

Hey, I'm Becky. I'm in my first year of a Masters in Health and Wellbeing at the University of Bath. I have lived with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and PTSD, for a number of years. I want to share my story, and all the tips I have picked up along the way, to help as many people as possible to realise that there is light out there, no matter how dark it can seem.

No comments:

Post a Comment