Updated: Dec 14, 2021
Christmas is meant to be a wonderful and joyous occasion, but for many it can be a challenging time of year, especially if you are struggling with your mental health. Christmas comes with endless expectations, demands, and pressures which can be daunting for those who are feeling unwell. For some, it may highlight the feeling of isolation and loneliness as many individuals still struggle to be open about their mental health.
I have had a few tough Christmas periods and I recall feeling very alone in my personal struggles and exhausted with the expectations that surrounded me. I felt isolated and detached but put a smile on my face and got on with it as best I could, with very little in the way of emotional resources.
There is a great deal of external pressure around this time of year, and these could be societal, family, or social. Added to that, are the never-ending demands of things to do, people to see and places to be. You may find yourself surrounded by others who are excitable and brimming with festive cheer, whilst you may be desperately trying to keep your head above water!
This can be even more difficult if you are keeping your struggles to yourself and not able to be open with others. Of course, it is not appropriate to disclose your internal challenges with everyone, but this does make it tough if your employer is expecting you to attend all the planned Christmas social events. And all you really want to do is retreat under your duvet and come back when it’s all over!
It could be that you are struggling with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or you just dip this time of year. It might be that it has been a tough year for you and quite honestly, you can’t wait to see the back of it! Whatever is happening, know that you are not alone and looking after your mental health and wellbeing is a priority over the coming period. Sometimes, we just need to put ourselves first and tend to our own needs more than anything else!
Here are several tips to support you this Christmas.
Think about what is important for you this Christmas. Write down all the things that you want to do and include things that you know will be supportive to your inner self. Prioritise what you need to do and spread the load, so you have space in between to rest should you need to. Choose which events you will attend and those that you won’t. Also include activities that support your inner wellbeing and self-care routine.
Putting yourself first
Making yourself a priority is absolutely necessary when you are finding it difficult to cope. So many of us trudge on regardless and continue to take care of everyone else when we simply do not have the resources to do it all. Taking care of your own needs is necessary when it comes to tending to your emotional wellbeing and doing what is best for you.
This may mean reducing your social activities, not hosting Christmas this year, delegating tasks, or not attending certain family events. Think about what action you need to take to ensure you are prioritising your own needs. If you need permission, this is it!
What do you need?
What do you need right now? Listen to your body and tune in to what it is crying out for. It could be time alone, to rest, to recharge, time with close friends or a walk in the woods. Think about what you need most and make it happen. Try to avoid the trap of being too busy to fit yourself in. Tending to your own needs first, may just give you the resources you need to tend to other things.
Refusing social invites
When I wasn’t in a great space, I could only be around those I was really close to. I was unable to attend any major social functions, as I found it too exhausting and sometimes it felt like I had forgotten how to hold a conversation! It was so draining and overwhelming.
Avoid saying yes to too many social invites and if you cannot face it on the day then just cancel. You don’t need to over explain yourself, feel guilty or embarrassed. You are doing what is right for you and only you know what is right for you regarding your health and wellbeing. We always have a choice but sometimes we just need a little courage to make them.
Social Media Detox
If you find it difficult to see the “perfect Christmas” plastered all over social media, then perhaps it is a great time to have a social media detox. Seeing other people’s posts could trigger you in feeling low, so take action by protecting yourself by any means necessary. You can come back to it anytime when you feel ready and more resourceful.
Find little ways in which you can treat yourself over the coming weeks. It could be buying yourself something nice or organising a treat for yourself where you can have your own little bit of self-indulgence. This could be a massage, coffee with friends or watching a cheesy Christmas movie… (I love a cheesy, feel-good movie!) It might be a long walk in the country, or it could simply be a quiet night in. Do whatever makes you feel good.
Learn to say No
Learning to say no is crucial when it comes to taking care of your mental health and wellbeing. You may be worried about the reaction of others, but if you are honest, people are likely to understand. Saying that, you don’t even have to explain, you simply state that you cannot take it on right now. You are only responsible for yourself and not other people’s reactions. Remove all pressure by saying no to others and saying yes to yourself. This can feel very empowering!
Create some balance
Create more balance in your life by looking at what is taking up too much time and energy. It might be that you have agreed to attend too many events or have taken on too much. Perhaps you need more time to rest and reset. Carve out time in your schedule so you can create a more balanced approach in your lead up to Christmas.
As human beings we all have rights, but we so often forget, so this is your reminder of your basic rights:
I have the right to say “No.”
I have the right to change my mind.
I have the right to prioritise my own wellbeing.
I have the right to put myself first.
I have the right to take care of my own needs.
I have the right to say, I am not sure; can I get back to you?
I have the right to refuse.
I have the right to self-care.
Be patient and gentle with yourself
This is so paramount when dealing with mental health issues and I cannot stress this enough. I still come across many people who are too hard on themselves and feel shame around not being able to cope. None of us are immune from mental health challenges, but the best thing you can do for yourself right now is to be patient, kind and gentle towards yourself. We are quite happy to support ourselves when we are physically unwell, so why can’t we do the same when we are emotionally unwell? Be compassionate towards yourself knowing that you are doing the best you can, with where you are right now.
Ask for help
If you are struggling, then do reach out for help and support. There is no shame in asking for help as we all need a little help sometimes. There is no need to suffer in silence as reaching out and asking for support could be your very first step on the journey to recovery. You could try opening up to a friend or family member as a first step. Click here for further tips on this.
Alternatively, you could check out what is available in your local area or online. (See resources at bottom of page)
The most important thing is to take good care of yourself and know that it is okay to put yourself first this year by doing whatever it takes to regain some sense of control, balance, and wellness.
Wishing you a safe and peaceful Christmas.