This post is a part of Nicole Carman’s mental health-related holiday post series, “Taking Care of your Mental Health during the Holiday Season.” It was written and contributed to this post series by John, who is a mental health blogger I have gotten to know on Twitter.
To see the post line-up for the previous and remaining posts in this series, please visit this page on Nicole’s blog, Navigating Darkness. If you enjoy this post, please comment and consider sharing it on social media!
Hey everyone. I’ve been invited by the lovely @ItsNicoleCarman to write a post about Mental Health at Christmas and coping with the holiday period. Firstly I wanted to say thank you to Nicole for giving me the opportunity to speak to all you lovely people, and for doing the work on promoting Mental Health that she does. I know a lot of people are inspired by her honesty about this truly personal subject.
I’d like to introduce myself to anyone who I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet. My name is John. I’m 30 years old from Essex in the UK. I’m a long suffering football fan and I love sports. I will not be defined by my depression, however hard that might be! I started www.livingforhealth.co.uk to try and help people with their physical and mental health, as often the two go hand in hand!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Isn’t it?
That’s right, Christmas is nearly upon us! It’s a time of eating, drinking and being merry. While a lot of people absolutely love Christmas (My sister would have her house decorated in October if she could get away with it.), It comes as a surprise to some that Christmas can be a big struggle for people who suffer with mental health problems.
I realise I’ve started this post sounding a bit ‘Grinch-y’ and that really isn’t my intention. I believe in the true spirit of Christmas and would truly love to see peace good will between all of human kind.
Christmas can be a huge struggle for some people and I wanted to share a few thoughts I had to make coping over the whole festive period a bit easier.
1. Don’t Bankrupt Yourself!
I think this is one of the most important bits of advice I can give. Sure, we all want to be able to give our loved ones gifts to show them how much they mean to you, but running up unmanageable levels of debt to do so is a particularly bad idea. Money worries can lead to a great deal of stress and anxiety which can continue long after the tinsel has been packed away. My significant other is in the habit of buying small gifts within her group of friends, normally within a budget of £25 each.
The gifts exchanged usually contain:
- Candles – We never use candles
- Anything owl shaped – We have a lot of owl stuff that has been put aside and never sees
the light of day
- Body lotions – She never uses body lotions
- Chocolate – There is more than enough chocolate lying around at Christmas
- Novelty socks – These do get used, but Christmas themed socks usually come out only
for a few weeks a year
£25 worth of gifts, given with the kindest of intentions which may never be used. If you do this for 5 friends you’ve spent £125! Then add in all the expensive gifts for family. It adds up quickly.
Be aware of what you can afford when buying gifts, don’t overspend what you don’t have. Your family and friends will be understanding and grateful just to see you if that is all you can afford. And they may be in a similar position where they would be better off not spending money unnecessarily on things that won’t get used.
2. Having an unrealistic view of Christmas
If I was to ask you to imagine what Christmas day should be like, the chances are you would not imagine Bob Cratchit’s house with the smallest goose you’ve ever seen. My guess is that you imagine a magnificent house, covered in Christmas lights with snow on the ground, a long table with enough room for 50 people covered with mountains of food and alcohol, surrounding the biggest mutant turkey you’ve ever seen.
Yep, Hollywood has a lot to answer for. People are so keen to recreate the idealic Christmas they see in the films yet the reality is often completely different.
Comparing yourself to other people can be damaging. Comparing your Christmas to someone else’s can have the same effect. Do things the way you want, and do what you enjoy and afford.
3. Eating and Drinking too much
I don’t really need to say much about this one. It happens! We’ve all been there!
It’s important to make sure that the over indulgence of Christmas doesn’t become normality though. Most people don’t realise that diet can have a huge impact on our mental health. Gluten for example can lead to depression. Changes to body shape can lead to body confidence problems. Alcohol can be addictive.
Enjoy it for what it is, but remember if things get too much there are always people to talk to.
4. Worrying about the Work Christmas Party
For some people the work party is a great excuse to let your hair down. For people who suffer with anxiety the idea of being out socially can be an incredibly stressful thought. There are many worries that a person suffering with depression will have when they think about attending or not attending. Be aware that not everybody may be confident in these different surroundings and it may have taken a lot of strength for them to leave the house.
In addition to the above, it would be remisce of me not to mention the following:
- Photocopier glass isn’t very strong – they aren’t designed to be sat on
- Don’t go off on a rant to someone – you will see them again in a couple of weeks
- Before you jump into bed with someone, think about whether it’s a good idea – and if
you do, make sure you use protection
- Treat people with respect. Something you consider as a joke, could be received as
harassment to someone else.
- Make sure you look after yourself and don’t break the law. Also remember that alcohol
you consumed the night before will likely still be in your system the night before.
5. Family Arguments
Christmas is a time for family, but let’s be honest, sometimes they get on your nerves right?
Nobody wants to have a blazing row that ruins the occasion and leads to bad feeling. Make sure you are accepting of other peoples views, and are non-confrontational with yours. Take a break if you need to, going for a walk can be a great way to clear your head.
6. New Year Dread
“New year, new me!” – I bet you’ve said this at least once in your life, and at the time I’m sure you meant it!
New year’s resolutions are often entered into with the greatest of intentions, but unfortunately most people set themselves targets which are either too vague (“I’m going to sort my life out!”), or are completely unachievable (“I’m going to get a 6 pack by the end of January!”). There’s a reason why Gym memberships increase in January and gyms are empty again in February. We set ourselves up to not succeed, then when we don’t achieve our goals we feel like a failure and begin to destroy ourselves for it.
I’m all for people improving their life and their health, but I believe we should set ourselves achievable targets. For example, a target of losing 2 pounds in 2 weeks is completely manageable, and if you achieve it, you feel proud of yourself and motivated to continue. See how switching the way you approach it can lead to different outcomes?
Why do we make resolutions anyway? If you want to make a change in life there is no time like the present. After all, on January 2nd , the 1 st will be just another day in history.
7. Takeaway Points
- Be nice to other people and treat them with kindness, you never know what they are
going through. Sometimes the smallest act of kindness can make the biggest impact.
- Be kind to yourself and make sure you take time for yourself, go for a run, meditate, hit a
punch bag, read a book, whatever helps you to relax
- Don’t put impossible pressure on yourself with unachievable resolutions
- Enjoy yourself
While you’re still here (I really really hope you’re still here!) I’d love to share a poem I’ve written. It’s a take on an old classic that has been adapted many times before. This is my version:
The Night Before Christmas
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Nothing was silent, not even a mouse.
The stockings had been thrown aside onto the floor
How could a small sock ever fit in a PS4
The Children were jumping up and down on their beds
A Kilo of sugar has gone to their heads
Poor mum screaming desperately at the top of her voice
“If you don’t go to sleep Santa won’t bring you toys”
When out in the garden there was a huge CRASH
The Christmas lights in darkness, the fuse blown with a flash.
Grief stricken Dad looking up at the now extinguished lights.
No longer Illuminating the cold winter nights.
Dad walks into town to the hardware store.
The bulbs may have blown but he’s going to find more.
Replacements in hand, he stops at a bar,
And sits next to a guy sadly nursing his jar.
“Happy Christmas” he says to the stranger.
“If you say so!” came the weary answer!
Dad gave a smile “Where’s your Christmas cheer”
The reply slowly came “A long way from here!”
“You see, I’ve seen war, I’ve put my life in danger.
My wife couldn’t wait, My daughter Sophie is a stranger.
My family are gone, I’ve lost my old home.
Christmas will be just another day on my own”
Dad felt terrible for his throwaway comment
He hadn’t imagined this poor man’s torment
“Join us tomorrow, come round to our place,
You’ll be more than welcome. We’ll find the space!
Christmas day! Our stranger approaches the now re-illuminated house.
a young girl opens the door wearing her new Christmas blouse.
“Daddy told us you’re coming for dinner.
But first we’re playing board games, the one with the spinner”
Our stranger goes in and the day passes by
This handsome out of luck man has caught Auntie Jane’s eye.
They start to talk and agree to a date
“My name is Nathaniel, but please call me Nate!”
A year passes by, in that same bar in town.
Dad now has sorrows he’s trying to drown.
An accident has stopped him from working.
Times are hard and the bailiffs are lurking.
He gets to his feet and walks to the bar.
He sees a familiar face across the room from afar.
Our stranger Nate now wearing a smile.
His new wife Jane now expecting their 1 st child.
Nate goes over to dad and gives him a hug.
“What ails you friend? Let me buy you a jug!”
He gratefully accepts and tells of his tale.
Times are tough, he feels like he’s failed.
Nate looks in his eyes and pulls him in close.
“You are the man that’s helped me the most!
I’ve been at rock bottom and I remember,
What you did for me last December.
“You were there when I needed someone the most
My daughter is back in my life. And I don’t mean to boast.
I now run my own company and things are going great.
Us meeting again is the work of Christmas fate!
My friend I can now return the favour.
For taking me in and being my saviour.
I was at my darkest point contemplating the end.
I owe you my life my very dear friend.
These days it is difficult to remember the true meaning of Christmas. While it may seem important to buy the most expensive presents and run up massive credit card bills, the most important part of Christmas is Kindness and compassion for one another. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t receive the most expensive, shiny presents. The smallest gifts if given with love can be more amazing than a present which bankrupts the giver!
We often go through life not seeing what other people are going through. However, a small act of kindness can go a long way toward helping someone with whatever is happening in their life!
I hope you have a lovely Christmas and new year. Take care of yourself.