Andy Williams sang ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’ and while, for many of us, Christmas is a time of fun and celebration, it can also be a time of stress and anxiety.
Watching everybody rush about planning for the ‘perfect Christmas’ can intensify feelings of loneliness, increase financial worries and put pressure on people whether you live with mental illness or not.
Most of us get really stressed out in the run up to the festive season. Sometimes, there’s a perfectly legitimate reason for holiday stress, like an empty bank account, relatives descending on you or a sofa that you’ve ordered not arriving in time. Other times, though, we’re just stressed out and sad for no reason.
If you feel like you’re suffering from any of the signs of depression, like extreme fatigue or an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, don’t suffer in silence – please seek professional help and CLICK HERE to learn more.
To borrow a line from our lovely friends at YANA Project you are not alone… One in ten of us feel unable to cope at this time of year, according to research by the charity Mind – a figure which rises to a third of people with a mental health problem.
So why does our mental wellbeing take such a hit at a supposedly happy time of the year?
Well, there are a number of reasons:
• Overspending is common – around 41% of people surveyed by Mind reported getting themselves into debt buying presents, food and socialising – which can increase strain and stress.
• With more food and socialising comes overindulgence and hangovers, which can worsen mental health symptoms. We have a genuine FOMO (fear of missing out) at Christmas so we overexert ourselves socially – which can leave us tired and anxious.
• Many things that are part of our routines become disrupted at this time of year, including the way we eat.
• And while we look forward to cosy evenings with family and friends over the holidays, it can be a stark reminder of the loved ones we’ve lost which, combined with the pressure to be cheerful, can be extremely difficult and isolating.
So what can we do about this?
For those with just run-of-the-mill Christmas blues, a little preparation goes a long way in staying sane. Try these four tips before you break out the booze and self-soothe.
1. Be realistic.
It isn’t up to you to create some kind of magical holiday fantasy for everyone in your family. Don’t knock yourself out trying to make a ten-course gourmet dinner – Gordon Ramsay isn’t going to be there and no one is going to shout at you. You also don’t have to gift like a Kardashian – John Lewis and Elton said it best this year – Love is the gift that lasts forever – so buy what you can afford and remember that “it’s the thought that counts.” If you overspend, you’re going to end up resentful, sad, and probably broke.
2. Have fun!
Sounds simple but many of us get so bogged down in the prep for the day that we miss all those lovely Christmassy events and activities that can lighten your mood. Christmas markets, mulled wine, hot chocolate, ice skating and Christmas lights – even the most cynical Scrooge can’t resist a little holiday magic.
3. Just do YOU
Sometimes it’s actually easier to make the tough decision. If your family aren’t the Brady Bunch and fight like cats and dogs, this can stress you out so look after yourself and tell them that you’re staying home this year. You don’t have to please everyone all of the time, just please yourself.
4. Speak Up
Sitting at the extended table holding your tongue while one of your nearest and dearest slags off your love-life/career/food/house is probably what you’ve done for years, but really? Is this good for your mental health? I’m not saying be rude and flip the table but you can firmly (and politely) tell them to keep their opinions to themselves if it gets a little too personal or too judgy.
Now that we’re not children anymore, the holiday season may have lost a little of its magic and sparkle but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer until New Year’s.
In other words, to quote the Grinch as he puzzled over the meaning of Christmas:
Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
This is something worth remembering in the next few weeks of of excess, expectations, and exchange.
Stay strong, Mind Your Head and Merry Christmas.