We all know how taxing December and the festive period can be on those who struggle with their mental health. The pressure to show up, the anxieties of making small talk with family members and the post-high lull that can push the best of us into a chocolate-eating, 2018-fearing, Netflix binging state.
Before we get into the next crazy few weeks, I think it’s always a good idea to set some ground rules for ourselves. Like with anything, failing to prepare means that you’re preparing to fail (sorry to sound like your Mum) – and prepping for any and every occasion is one way to keep balanced.
Read on to discover a few ways to look after your mental health during this busy period – and don’t be afraid to share your own stories down in the comments.
Withdraw when you need to
As necessary it is to immerse yourself in social events, family gatherings or Christmas traditions, it’s important that we all know our own limitations.
Personally, I really struggle with back-to-back events, to-dos or social situations. I know that I always enjoy things more with a breather in between. Whether that means blocking out a few hours in the afternoon to slob out on the sofa, or rearranging commitments so I have a couple of days to myself before putting my small-talk face back on, I’ve learnt to make those provisions.
Don’t fall into the trap of not doing enough, either. This trap is an easy one to get caught up in (similar to the trap of going all out on Christmas present shopping or buying a week’s worth of festive jumpers), but ultimately, it’s your holiday season and if that means meeting up with friends and family every night, or once or twice – it’s up to you.
Having a few magazines (Breathe always makes me feel balanced and calm), favourite films or even a festive mug with a speciality hot chocolate to make up, can all help us feel as if the little time we have to ourselves this season is made the most out of.
Remember what it’s really all about
Believe it or not, this time of year isn’t about getting drunk or indebting ourselves – I know, shock horror. For the religious, Christmas has more faith-related meanings, but for the many of us who celebrate Christmas without having a traditional Christian belief, the season is about kindness, family, love and belonging.
If you suffer from extreme shyness or anxiety, those who truly love and care for you will appreciate when you do have the strength and courage to get involved. If you don’t feel like you have people around you who understand then stand sure in yourself – reach out to the online community for belonging or make the effort to spend time with those who do appreciate how big a step turning up to a meet-up can be.
Christmas is about having a nice time, and if the pressure of turning up, drinking or sacrificing your alone time gets too much, then you’re not having a nice time anymore. Like always, self-care comes first – and balance second.
Find comfort in the prep
Say something crops up that you really would rather skip out on. You’re having a bad mental health day, the world feels like too much to face but this event is important and you simply cannot get out of it.
Try to find comfort and support in your preparation time. I know – maybe it sounds like a throwaway thing, and I understand that on some days the best anyone can do is open their eyes and exist – BUT, having a little comforting routine that we perform before we head out to a scary thing can help us feel a little more prepared, or at least help us get our game face on.
I love giving myself time to have a bath, eat (if I’m not eating out), watch a few YouTube videos and
Stick to your habits
I can’t drink coffee. Well, I can, but if I’m struggling with anxiety and drink a coffee my heart will be beating funny the rest of the day, I’ll feel sick and my anxiety tends to double or triple.
Even though I know coffee isn’t a great idea for me, I am still persuaded by it. The festive period can persuade us to step out of our normal habits but if you’re having a bad mental health day (or the festive period often brings up things that you struggle with) then stick to your habits.
If you’re not a coffee drinker, don’t cave and try that festive latte (unless it’s decaf), don’t have three drinks at a party when you haven’t drunk for months. Of course, you can do what you like, but be aware that alcohol, caffeine (and even things like festive crowds) can trigger panic attacks, anxiety and even start depressive episodes (which is why I seldom drink alcohol anymore).
There’s no shame in sticking to what’s comfortable. For many, this time of year is stressful enough, so staying sober, coffee-free or sticking to online shopping to avoid busy, bustling streets (and often grumpy middle-aged women) is fine.
This too shall pass
Now I’m well aware that for some who struggle with mental health, this time of year is just hell. No number of tips, hacks or suggestions will make the social season any easier for you and all I can say is that this too shall pass.
This famous phrase has gotten me through countless experiences that I’d rather not be in. A bad shift at work, a party that’s not very fun, those irritating comments family members are making – everything will come to an end and this social, festive period will too.
Stand sure and think about the quiet January that’s to come. Despite what social media tells us, this time of year is never perfect and can be the worst time of year for many different reasons. At the end of the day, this is just another month and like all the others, it will happen and we’ll still be standing tall at the end of it.
Make the most of the festive period if you can – but don’t feel like you’re the only one gritting your teeth through it. It’ll end soon enough.
We all come face-to-face with struggles this season – I’d love to hear any of your secret weapons for managing low mood and high levels of anxiety over the festive period.
Let me know how you cope when there’s a social event around every corner.
Did you know that I’m doing Blogmas this year? Check out my other festive posts right here.